Scripture: Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” John 4:1-26 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, Jesus and his disciples relocate to the Judean countryside to begin his ministry, while the Baptist resettles to Aenon. There, he continues his ministry of repentance baptism. But when news reaches John’s disciples regarding Jesus’ growing ministry, they alert John to this supposed interloper. But John squelches any notion of territorial rights and explains that all kingdom laborers depend wholly on God’s empowerment. Then, using the imagery of the bridegroom’s best man, John adds that his ministry is diminishing for Christ’s to increase. Moreover, he rejoices over completing his preparatory role because Jesus, who descended from heaven, is Lord over all creation. Still, many will reject Christ’s testimony and bear the wrath of God, but those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God will receive the Holy Spirit and enjoy eternal life.
Today’s devotion tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman and presents a prelude to Jesus’ seven “I am” declarations regarding his identity as the Son of God. John first tells us that Jesus departed for Galilee because of all the buzz concerning his ministry. Passing through Samaria, he comes near the town of Sychar around noontime and sits beside Jacob’s well. An unnamed woman from the village approaches the well, and Jesus asks her to draw a drink for him. The woman is shocked that a Jew would speak to a Samaritan, let alone a woman (both deemed inferior in this ancient Israeli culture). Jesus ignores her presumption and, referring to himself as the gift of God, informs her that if she had asked him, he would have given her living water.
Not understanding the spiritual implication, the woman questions how Jesus could do so and whether he thinks he is of greater renown than their patriarch, Jacob. Jesus ignores her indignant tone and explains that the living water he offers springs to eternal life. Intrigued, she asks Jesus to give her this special water so she never thirsts again or labors to draw for water. Again, Jesus ignores her impertinence and tells her to go and call her husband to come here. Humbled, she confesses she has no husband, and Jesus affirms her truthful response and adds that the woman has had five husbands and is unmarried to her present partner.
At this point, the bantering ends. The woman acknowledges that Jesus is a prophet and then questions why his fellow Jews claim exclusive rights to worship God in Jerusalem when their patriarchs worshipped him on this mountain. Jesus clarifies the era of worshipping God in a physical location is passing away. Being a spiritual Father, he seeks true worshipers who worship him in “spirit and truth.” Stirred by his response, the woman acknowledges the coming Messiah who will “tell all things.” Jesus then reveals that he is the long-awaited Messiah.
Takeaway: In ancient Israel, the town women would travel together (providing security in numbers) to the community water supply in the early morning to avoid the heat. Given the Samaritan woman traveled alone at midday, she likely was shunned by fellow women of the village because of her immoral track record. Thus, Jesus crossed three cultural boundaries engaging her in conversation: ethnicity, gender, and lifestyle. As we will read in tomorrow’s Daily Focus, Jesus’ disciples will be shocked by their Rabbi engaging with such an unsavory person. But then again, Jesus’ disciple, Matthew, the tax collector, lived outside the margin of acceptable societal standards. And the other eleven were uneducated young men with no notable social standing.
Our takeaway? This story reveals several elements of our glorious Gospel. First and foremost, come as you are! There are no prerequisites to receiving the gift of salvation. We do not have to clean ourselves up. The Holy Spirit will work on that for the rest of our earthly journey—lol! Second, we worship in spirit and truth. Brick and mortar do not delineate the church. Indeed, the church is in us who know and love Jesus. And there are multiple ways to express our faith in worship. The only boundaries are that we worship our Lord aligned with truth, as revealed in Scripture. Third, and most importantly, if we thirst for truth, for a perfect lover of our souls who knows everything about us and accepts us just the way we are, we must come to the Wellspring of our well-being: the Living Water. We must draw near to Christ in our worship, prayers, reading of his Word, and fellowship with others who seek the Living Water. For we will only find true and lasting refreshment for our souls from the Wellspring in whom water flowed from his side (John 19:34) to heal our sin-inflicted wounds.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, the Wellspring of our well-being, who poured out on your people his living water through his ministry, death, and resurrection. And we give thanks that his living water continues to spring up on us through his ongoing intercessions and the blessings of the Holy Spirit. So would you please help us drink from his well rather than the cisterns of worldly pleasures that otherwise leave us parched for thirst? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling