When my parents moved to Africa,
they figured that they needed to build a house,
and very importantly,
dig a well.
The digging of the well was a big deal. A well digger had to be found and contracted with and promises were extracted about the length of time to dig and the depth of the well and so forth. I was very young at the time so I don’t remember any of the particulars. But I was aware that during the dry season the well would dry up. For whatever reason, the well digger hadn’t dug far enough. It’s possible that he hit volcanic rock and couldn’t go on, or that he gypped my parents. Who knows? Every dry season we would have to gather huge plastic barrels and drive to a well 2 kilometers away that had been seriously dug by the UN or somebody like that. I loved going to the big well with the huge pump, but I know it was a real hassle. We had to be so careful with water—filtering, measuring it out. It helped that it wasn’t Running in the house. We kept it in huge cool clay jars. But the most outstanding, and, looking back, horrible thing happened after we’d been there for a while. The water in our well began to taste bad. And every day it tasted a little worse. I don’t even know how to describe the taste of this water—at once stale and rotten, clay like and foul. There was no way to filter out the taste, though we washed the filters every day, and boiled the water, trying everything to get rid of it. Finally a well digger was called, a different one. I remember watching him climb down into the well. He was down there for a little bit and then climbed back up with a bucket full of, anyone want to guess? Dead rotting lizards. From thence forward the water in our well was called DLW—Dead Lizard Water. I was sort of nostalgically sad to move to our new house and new well a few years later, to regular water, rather than DLW.
What happens if you don’t have water?
Exactly. You die.
You might be able to go many days without bread,
but you cannot go many days without water.
Without water, you die.
Jesus and his disciples have been walking in the heat of the day. And, stopping at about noon, he sends them into a town to go buy food. Jesus sits down in the shade and waits and within minutes a woman comes to draw water. This is an exhausting hour to be out. The sun is relentless. But it’s better to come now, by herself, than endure the judging looks and whispers of other women. The woman puts her pot down by the well and catches her breath. Jesus considers her and then asks her if she will draw him some water. He is thirsty, he would like a drink. His disciples will probably be hours buying food. The woman couldn’t be more surprised. Jesus is obviously Jewish. Jews don’t speak to Samaritans. Men don’t speak to women, in public, unaccompanied. Even for a drink of water. ‘Really?’ she says, ‘You want me to give you a drink of water? How is it that you are even speaking to me?’
And then Jesus, because he is God, and when you meet with God you get the Really Big Questions answered, not so much the little ones, Jesus gives her a lot more theology than she bargained for. ‘If you knew who you were talking to’, he says, ‘you would ask me for water, living water.’
She doesn’t quite understand what he is talking about. ‘You don’t have anything to pull it out of the well with and the well is deep. Where are you going to get it? Are you better than Jacob, who gave us this well?’ she asks.
If you’re out in the heat of the day, drawing water by yourself because no one wants to be with you, caught in a situation that seems to have no out, no solution, having drunk the disgusting water of this life, and someone walks into your life and offers you living water, if you’re sensible, like the Samaritan woman, you don’t waste time being coy or pretending not to understand. ‘Are you greater than Jacob who gave us the well?’ She asks the main question, ‘Are you greater?’
Because if Jesus is greater, then she can trust him.
Basically ‘Yes, ‘ says Jesus, ‘If you drink out of this well you’ll have to come back tomorrow because the water you take away with you today will run out. If you drink my water, you won’t ever run out. You won’t be thirsty for ever. You won’t die. You will have eternal life.’ This woman has her wits about her. She doesn’t mess around. ‘Sir’ she says, ‘give me this water.’
When I get really thirsty, as Matt can attest, I very often get weepy and start to cry. Usually for no reason. Being dehydrated makes me feel sad. If I find that I’m crying for no reason, the best thing is to run to the sink and drink a whole glass of water very quickly.
Jesus is spiritual water. And its very easy to dehydrate spiritually by not paying attention to him. If you wake up in the morning and get on with your day without talking to Jesus (that’s praying) and learning about him (that’s reading the Bible) and inquiring of him what he wants you to do that day, you will come to the end of the day spiritually thirsty. And, because you started out without a necessary spiritual drink of water, as you go on you will have to drink something to survive. So you might take a big drink of frustration and anxiety, or maybe of anger. Or it might be more obvious than that, to survive, you might take a big drink of drugs, or drink from a relationship you know is wrong. How long is your spiritual thirst quenched on these things? A few minutes, maybe even a whole day. But you’ve been drinking from the worldly well of death. If you’re thirsty for something, the first thing is to read a psalm, pray for five minutes. Drink from the living water of Jesus. Orient yourself towards him. This is what the woman does. Jesus helps her do it.
‘Go’, he says, ‘get your husband and come back.’
‘I don’t have a husband,’ she says.
‘I know’ he says, ‘you don’t have a husband, you’ve had five husbands, and the guy you’re with now isn’t your husband.’ Jesus wasn’t from there, there’s no way he would have known, Except he’s greater, Except he’s God. So he knows who she is and what she’s done. He knows all the choices she’s made. He knows how she’s settled, again and again, for guy after a guy, drinking from the lying fountain that people can satisfy your needs, give you want you want. What water are you drinking of, this morning? Are you drinking the water of death? Are you settling for something less than the water of life?
Standing there, this woman does not waste time. ‘Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.’ She makes a beeline for the center, for the point. Verse 20 ‘Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say we should worship in Jerusalem.’ She’s asking a most basic question about worship. Worship is the First thing, the Main thing. Worship is the deep pure crystal clear well water of life. If you are worshiping God, here on Sunday morning, during the week, if you are orienting yourself towards him, then you are drinking the water of life. You’re going to be able to go a distance. She has asked the most important question. Where should we worship? How should we worship?
‘In spirit and in truth,’ says Jesus. You worship in the Spirit of God. When I’m on track and paying attention to Jesus and I go to church, I often feel like I’m in a spiritual water fall. I’m getting the big drink I need. But that means coming on God’s terms, in truth, worshipping him the way he wants, the way he lays out.
The woman is a smart cookie, ‘I know that the Messiah is coming and when he comes he will tell us all things’. Its like she knows who he is but she’s still a little afraid she might be wrong.
‘I’m him’ says Jesus, ‘I’m what you’ve been waiting for.’
She picks up her water and trucks back into town to get some people. Jesus and his disciples stay two days in the town. Everybody wants to talk to him and hear what he has to say and get to know him. Anyone who could effect Such a Change, in Such a Woman, must be worth getting to know. And many of them were waiting for the Messiah also. So much headway is made here, by Jesus and his disciples, that after Jesus ascends into heaven, and the apostles begin to be persecuted, many of them come back to Samaria to continue to preach and build up the church.
What are you drinking, this morning? Are you drinking the spiritual equivalent of Dead Lizard Water? The vile rotting filth of this world? Are you spending your time watching really worthless TV every evening, or reading books that aren’t worth your time, or trying to live off a habit or addiction. Are you spiritually drying out in the world because you’re not drinking the Water of Life, not immersing yourself in Jesus, in his word? We’re in the middle of Lent. Are you Living with Jesus? Or are you continuing to die in the World? Don’t waste time. Don’t mess around. The hour is coming And Now is. Drink Up.