Living Water for a Lonely Life

Most of us are familiar with the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.

Jesus and his disciples chose to go through Samaria as he leaves Jerusalem. The usual route would be to avoid going through Samaritan territory by going east to Jericho, across the Jordon River and go north until they could cross back over the Jordan River and into Galilee. Samaria was considered a spiritually polluted country because its citizens had intermarried with pagan people.

It was the long route to avoid questionable people Jesus chose to travel through Samaria for a divine appointment. While his disciples went to a nearby town to buy food, Jesus rested at a well located outside the town of Sychar. The gospel writer John, who carefully chose the words and acts of Jesus to demonstrate who Jesus was, presents this story to show Jesus’ love for all the people of the world.

While Jesus rested and waited at the well, this woman shows up. Unlike the other woman of the area, this woman chose to come at noontime, the hottest time of the day, to avoid meeting the other women of the community. We know some things about her.

  • She was a Samaritan, a mixed racial people considered unacceptable for contact with Jewish persons.
  • She was a woman, at a time when women were valued only for their housework and ability to bear children. They could be abused or divorced with only a written statement by their husband.
  • She had multiple marriages, indicating her failure in relationships. Perhaps this was because she was unable to bear a child, or made poor choices of husbands. In those days, the only acceptable role for a woman was to find their security in marriage.
  • She was an outcast, or considered herself to be one. She avoided the town’s women who regularly came to draw water in early morning and early evening to avoid the heat of the day.

Rather than look down on this lonely woman, please realize that we have persons in very similar circumstances in our community. Jesus could have chosen to avoid her, or condemn her. After all, apparently Jesus knew everything about her personal life. Instead, Jesus chose to connect with her and deal with her personal needs.

Jesus initiated the contact by asking her to help him. After all, he was thirsty and had no way to draw water. She came to draw water, bringing the necessary utensils to do that. Jesus began by asking her to draw water for him to drink. Asking someone for a favor is really a compliment, taking a position not of superiority but as needy. Such a request will often receive a thoughtful response. Jesus still approaches us with a request. His spirit, the Holy Spirit, comes to ask us to open our hearts and lives to accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord.

Jesus engaged her in a significant conversation, even though she was a reluctant participant. Although she was critical of his request, Jesus pursued his talk with her. The conversation was like a verbal conflict, the woman trying to deflect his interest in her and Jesus drawing her deeper into meaningful conversation. When this woman tried to change the subject and talk about what we all “religious idea,” Jesus wanted to talk about a personal connection with God.

In today’s conversations, many persons declare they are “spiritual” but not “religious.” In the book Hungers of the Heart Richard Watts describes talk about “religion” as a bad word and “spiritual” as a god word. “Spiritual” talk is personal authentic, thoughtful and experience oriented while “religious” talk is often about dogmatic beliefs, authoritative declarations and establish a sense of having exclusive truths. The Samaritan lady wanted the dividing conversation of Jewish dogma but Jesus spoke of fresh, hopeful experience available to her.

Jesus then proceeded to confront her with her personal issues. He asked, “Call your husband.” When she stated she had no husband, a statement of shame on her part, Jesus confronted her with her past. She had five past marriages and a present unlawful relationship. To bring change to our lives, or to another person, we must eventually address our personal issues. Hers was not just about multiple marriages, but her failure in six relationships. Jesus was inviting her to have the seventh relationship with him – a life-changing “spiritual” relationship.

You may have seen a person entering an Alcohol Anonymous meeting and declaring, “My name is Joe, and I am an alcoholic.” Healing starts by being honest to God. In spite of her attempts to divert and deflect Jesus, she was able to take off her false face and accept her failures because Jesus accepted her.

The result was dramatic. The woman of shame was energized to go into the town without shame and declare, “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did.” She enthusiastically pointed others to hear this man who healed her sin problem in spite of her reluctance. Although we don’t know anything else about this woman, we do know that the whole town came out to the well to hear Jesus. We also know that he stayed there for two days, teaching and preaching “Good News.” Perhaps her testimony changed the whole town, quite a miracle! Jesus, interrupted and questioned by his disciples, called that moment “Harvest Time.” We can experience “Harvest Time” in our lives, in our relationships and in our churches, when we open our lives to confront the spirit and truth of Jesus.

What should we do to cultivate “Harvest Time?” First, we must get back to drinking the living water, not the polluted water of our present resources. That means living with His spirit and His truth. Second, we can enthusiastically begin to tell others about the “Living Water” from Jesus. When we have a present-tense experience with the “Living Water” of Jesus, we will easily and affectively tell about what Jesus has done for us.

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By Dr. Jim Highland

Dr. Jim Highland is the author of Serving As A Bivocational Pastor and Adjunct professor at Newburgh Theological Seminary.