John 4:5-36 relays a dialogue between Jesus and an unnamed Samaritan woman. The evangelistic aplications of this passage are numerous, however while meditating on these verses something jumped at me that I had never put to words before. An idea, picture, and principle tickled the edges of my concious mind as a concept began to take shape…she drank from Jacob’s well, worshipped under a different (some say polluted) version of Judaism, and lived a permiscuous life style and Jesus lumped her in with the Jews and made no distinction between their religious practices and her’s…
Many years back a friend of mine preached about the wells that we drink from. A well is a source of refreshing and life. She referenced the Samaritan woman and how in spite of all her lovers she was still so thirsty. She was soul-thirsty, and her pursuit of a solution left her stuck in a cycle much like a dog returning to its vommit. In fact, although the word used to name the “well” in verse 6 is fountain or source, when the Samaritan woman tells Jesus he has nothing to draw water with she uses the Greek word for “pit, abyss, prison” (vs 11). You see, her source of refreshing had become a prison emotionally and a drudgery naturally – she was soul-thirsty.
Just as physical waters only provided a tempory solution to her body’s needs, her adulteries and lovers could only temporarily quench her soul-thirst. Yet, she was trapped in the abyss, pit, or prison of continually returning to both. When Jesus addressed her, he was not speaking of physical water and physical dehydration, but of the soul-thirst that was consuming this woman’s life. He made a bold statement when he said:
…Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. John 4:13-14 (KJV)
When she percieved He was speaking on spiritual terms she responded from her religious paradigm of right and wrong, good and evil:
Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. John 4:19-20 (KJV)
Clearly this woman was no stranger to “religion”, and she was truly seeking to know what she must do to quench this soul thirst that had driven her into the arms of many lovers. Just like her lovers, religion had used her up and thrown her out. Perhaps, if she worshipped as the Jews did, in the right place, saying the right words? So she keeps returning to her paradigm of death. This is the nature of religion. Religion states that unless you do things a certain way, belong to our group, look, talk, and behave as the rules demand you will not have your thirst quenched. Religions says: “give, give, perform, perform…and don’t mess up!” Religion, however, promises what it cannot deliver: living, self-sustaning, life-giving water. See, the Jews had to keep going back to their rituals again and again just as the Samaritan woman had to go back to her lovers again and again – Jesus makes no distinction between her promiscuity and the religious practices of the Jew or the Samaritan’s religion. He does not condemn her pursuit of pleasure – in fact the word for fountain means:
probably from <G4078> (pegnumi) (through the idea of gushing plumply); a fount (literal or figurative), i.e. source or supply (of water, blood, enjoyment) (not necessarily the original spring) :- fountain, well.—Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary
Her question was not all that different than the one posed by the Rich Young Ruler:
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? Matt 19:16 (KJV)
Jesus went straight for this man’s well:
If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Matt 19:21-22 (KJV)
I bet He’d make no difference between Christian religious practices and the Rich Young Ruler who kept all the Law, but still felt like he was lacking something (thirsty yet?)…
Jesus answers both the Rich and the Samaritan with the same premise:
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. John 4:16 (KJV)
Just like the Rich Young Ruler and his possessions, Jesus went right for the juggler – her sexual relationships – The Rich Young Ruler went away sad…I wonder what would have happened if he had taken Jesus up on the offer?
…Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth John 4:21-24 (KJV)
…let go of your religious perceptions and come to Me, drink of Me, follow Me…Learn from Me! See, whether Jew or Samaritan both had rules that had to be kept in order to worship, serve, and be watered by God. Now, you may say “I’m not under the Law! I don’t have any rules or religious beliefs keeping me from God!” Really? What if tomorrow you were to fall into a homosexual lifestyle, murder someone, or get kicked out of your church…you fill in the blank? Trust me, we all have “lines in the sand” that challenge grace and demand that we perform in order to stay connected to God.
So, what did Jesus promise to this tortured soul? What exactly was it that He was offering to her?
Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life John 4:13-14 (KJV)
He promised her a “well within”…in essence, search no more! Not just a well, but a springing (with everlasting life) well! Drink whenever you like free from obligation to man, his rules, and condemnation…and more! Not only drink, but become a source to quench the thirst of others! Oh divine purpose! Oh meaning in life! Oh to be more than a throw-away and object of shame and ridicule! This, the realization of what she was being given, when it finally sank in…after all her religious questions were answered…this is the message she spread to all who would hear her…this is the message that turned a whole city…Thankfully, after a short discussion, she does go to the village and tells “the men”, word spread fast and “many” believed because of her words
28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. John 4:28-30 (KJV)
So, to what well do you continue to return to over and over to momentarily quench your soul-thirst? Do you find it hard to make it through the week – so dependent on a religious gathering (like the Jews), is it drug abuse, promiscuity, an unhealthy relationship, or some other source that momentarily numbs the pain but leaves you always thirsting and coming back for more imprisoning you in unsatisfying pseudo-fulfilment?
I pray you also can lay your religious rules and paradigms aside and receive the water that becomes a well within so that you will never thirst for another source again!