Jesus asks a Samaritan women for a drink: “You are a Jew,” she responds, “and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”
Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water?…”
Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” – John 4:5-30
So, John’s Gospel. What can I say? This has to be one of my absolute favorite books in the Bible. The beautiful language, the poetry, the insight into the soul of Jesus, the seamless interface between Hebrew and Greek thinking, the imperceptible boundary between the eternal/spiritual and the temporal/mundane, the interplay between natural and supernatural, the perfect coming together of God and humanity in Jesus, the instant deep-dive into the most remarkable spiritual perceptions from the very first paragraph.
Today the Saturday morning men’s Bible-study talked about the story of The Woman at the Well. “If you had any idea who you are talking with…” Jesus says.
I love that line! And how often is that true? Acting impatient with a cashier at the store. Glaring at some kid who’s music is too loud. Responding dismissively to some question from a child. Offering some off-handed impatient remark to our spouse. If only we had a clue as to who – on a deeper level – we are talking with.
The woman is cautious but curious at the same time. This man is different. He’s not a user but instead is offering life. Then he gives her the opportunity to be more honest, vulnerable even. “Why don’t you go get your husband?”
And God peels back the layers a little more.
In our discussion someone – George, I think – said something that made me grab my pen and write a few sentences in the book. We will never know who Jesus really is (who Jesus can be for us) until we are willing to be honest (with God and with one another) about who we are. I’m thinking vulnerability, authenticity, honesty.
It is a spiritual truth that we close ourselves off from God to the extent that we maintain – and build – barriers that separate us from one another, barriers that prevent us from even being honest with ourselves.
What Jesus was offering the woman at the well was not pie-in-the-sky salvation but honest-to-goodness salvation. This living water Jesus offered to give her is about being both reconciled to God and to ourselves and to real people in real time.
“I know you don’t have any faithful, committed, nurturing, mutually encouraging, spiritually beneficial relationships,” Jesus said. “You have run through a series of failed relationships and the one you’re in is no better.”
Okay, she thinks to herself, this guy knows what he’s talking about. “I can see that you are a prophet!”
The invitation of Jesus is to be honest with ourselves and with God to the extent that we are open to light and love and life and hope and promise and joy. But we have to tear down that wall, be willing to be vulnerable, land on our knees, and admit that we need Jesus as friend and guide.
Jesus does not ask us to be perfect people, but he does want us to be honest. Then the promise is that he will walk with us, vouch for us, and lead us home.
This is grace, not about us but about Jesus. Not about how much water we can carry but about who we travel with. Not about judgment but about this invitation to come home.