Peace be with you!
A conversation can lead you in many different directions, depending on who joins in, what is being discussed, and where it is taking place. The conversation can invoke anger, love, disappointment, hope, joy, an argument, or [whatever “it” is] you feel in that moment. Some conversations take me by surprise and take different directions than I anticipated. The day after Ash Wednesday, my fifteen-year-old mentee asked me the difference between Christians and Catholics, why Christians got crosses of ash traced on their foreheads, and why being baptized was important. Each question seemed second nature—something I knew without thinking. However, to someone who did not grow up in the church these questions are baffling. As an outsider, my mentee questioned why people had ash put on their foreheads and how did water make you special. I found myself having a confirmation class at my dinner table. What an amazing conversation! Look for blog posts under “New Press” to answer these baffling questions in the near future.
Jesus has been travelling for days and stumbles upon a well at noon (John 4:5-6) at the hottest time of the day. A Samaritan woman comes along to draw water. Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for a drink of water (John 4:7). It seems like a simple request—something you may ask a waiter, a friend, or a spouse to get you. Yet two thousand years ago a request from a Jewish man to a Samaritan woman broke all of the social boundaries. As a Jew, Jesus is breaking an unspoken rule: do not engage with the Samaritans, especially women. But here is Jesus asking for water from a Samaritan woman.
The Samaritan woman is baffled by Jesus’ request. She is drawing water in the middle of the day, which should be a sign that she is an outcast who avoids the morning and evening rush to get water. She cannot bear to be around other women who stare at her and talk about her. The Samaritan woman asks, “How is it that you, a Jew, can ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink of water?” (John 4:9). It would have been like an African-American man asking a Caucasian woman for water in the 1970s. It just was not done.
Jesus continues to baffle the Samaritan woman by saying, “If you knew who I am, you would be asking me for a drink of living water” (John 4:10). The Samaritan woman knows Jesus has no bucket to draw water and wonders what “living water” is. And how does this Jewish man think that he is greater than the Samaritans’ ancestor Jacob? How dare he? (John 4:11-12).
Then Jesus goes on to explain how you will always be thirsty if you only drink earthly water, but when you drink living water you will never be thirsty again and will be given eternal life (John 4:13-14). It seems like the answer to the Samaritan woman’s problems. She would never have to go back to the well again. But it cannot be that simple. Jesus asks the Samaritan woman to go get her husband and bring him back to the well (John 4:16). The Samaritan woman must have hemmed and hawed before admitting she had no husband, to which Jesus says, “You are correct. You have had five husbands, and the man you live with is not your husband” (John 4:17-18). Busted! This guy knows everything. The Samaritan woman realizes Jesus is a prophet and asks him where people should worship: on the mountain where Samaritans worship or in Jerusalem where the Jews worship (John 4:19-20).
Jesus answers the Samaritan woman, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 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 seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24 NRSV).
The time is coming and is here where you do not have worship on a mountain, in Jerusalem, or in a synagogue. You will worship God wherever you are, whenever you want, and with whomever you want. Worship will be to the Father in spirit and in truth. It no longer matters where you worship but how and why. You need to speak of the spirit and the truth of the good news in Jesus Christ who died for our sins and gives you eternal life with God the Father.
Upon hearing the good news, the Samaritan woman recognizes Jesus is speaking of the Messiah and Jesus agrees (John 4:25-26). The Samaritan woman runs back to the village to tell the people about Jesus and what he told her. The Samaritan woman becomes Jesus’ disciple and brings many more people to believe…all because Jesus asked for a drink of water.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the amazing living water you give us through Jesus Christ. Help us to worship you whenever, wherever, and with whomever wants to hear the good news of your beloved son. Guide us to share the Good News with others. Remind us to give the living water to all who are thirsty. Thank you for making us your witnesses and disciples. Amen.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the behavior covenant by commenting on it.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
- Share an example of a conversation where you engaged a nonbeliever or young believer around meaningful questions. How did it go?
- What represents living water to you?