In the heat of the noonday sun, Jesus sat down at Jacob’s well, tired from his journey. He was thirty miles into a 70 mile walk. His disciples, presumably just as tired, had gone into town to buy food. Sychar was a town in Samaria, a place charged with tension from a long-standing feud between Samaritans and Jews. But He was just a guy, resting by a well.
His disciples probably felt more than a little awkward going grocery shopping in this town, but I imagine their hunger pangs and Jesus’ preparation on the way there gave them the courage to leave their comfort zone, to put themselves at the mercy of Samaritan merchants, to risk confrontation in ‘enemy’ territory.
A Samaritan woman, an outcast, an ‘enemy,’ came to draw water. She no doubt notices him there, notices he is a Jew. Maybe she wonders why he was not with the other Jews that she passed on her way out of town. Was she concerned for her safety? Did she find him attractive? Maybe she was lost in her own thoughts and didn’t care one jot that he was there at all.
I imagine Jesus was looking at her, watching her draw the water from the well, waiting patiently to look her in the eye when she was finally bold enough to look at him. What an amazing moment. Jew to Samaritan was totally irrelevant. Person to Person. Man to Woman. Merciful God to Sinful Woman.
He made this woman. He made her soul. He knew her past, her heart, her yearnings, her choices. He knew every tear she ever cried, and how many hairs were on her head. He would die for her.
I am always amazed at the restraint of God. Every moment of His life, He must have been bursting with love for each soul he encountered, desperate to bear hug them, kiss them, pick them up and spin them around, heal them, protect them, assure them of the Father’s unfathomable love and mercy, and the freedom He longs to give!
He is the Word of God, sprung forth from His mother’s lips in the Magnificat, His Soul a raging fire that proclaims the greatness of God! … but what meek, gentle, non-thunderous Godly sentence does He who made the oceans say to this lonely woman?
“Give me a drink.”
She is confused… Huh? You looked at me? You spoke to me? Aren’t we supposed to hate each other? Where is your wall?
Jesus dives deep right away. No small talk, no chit-chat, no time to waste. “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
I like that.
Keep that sentence in your pocket today as you feed a poor person, care for an infant, or visit someone in prison. What can this person, who is so in need, so vulnerable, perhaps even repulsive and undignified, what could they possibly have to offer me? How could my giving to them actually give life to me?
By asking God for it.
And after you have asked and been given life, you will have more life to give, which will yield more life for the asking, which you give, which yields more life until you have an abundance to live and share!
Anyway, on with our story:
J: Dear Woman, I know you just met me, but I can tell that you want life, living water, freedom, the Holy Spirit. This well water is just a temporal taste of the true life-giving water. I want to give it to you.
W: Even more startled and confused; this man is blunt! I know where he’s going with this! How presumptuous! How preposterous! Her defense mechanism kicks in – how do I upset a man? Doubt him, question him, get his ego riled up to end this uncomfortable conversation.
Jesus, Patience Incarnate, is unruffled.
J : “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Look lady, I’m serious. I want to give you life. I would die for you.
W: Okay, she thinks, He seems serious… I’ve heard promises from men before. I don’t expect much, but I’ll go along. “Sir, give me this water.”
(So, if you’re like me, I’ve been taking notes this whole time on how to evangelize, how to interact with sinners who don’t know and don’t much care about the gospel. And at this point in a conversation, I would expect Jesus to go all ‘Emmaus Road’ on her, spin around and put on his Super Apologist cape, bringing out the New Testament and the Catechism, giving her a Scott Hahn CD or a Catholic Answers tract. Nope.)
J: “Go call your husband and come back.”
W: “I do not have a husband.”
J: You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.
What a bold, risky, intrusive thing to say to someone. What if she had lied? What if she had dumped that whole bucket of water on his head? We live in a culture that would applaud this woman’s sexual ‘freedom’ and greatly dislikes anyone prying into or questioning the morality of our supposed ‘private’ affairs.
What’s interesting though… he didn’t actually make any statement that could be considered condemning. He just stated the facts in a neutral, truthful way, and let her work it out for herself. He doesn’t even seem interested in talking about her and her sins, He really just wants to talk about His Father…
For further discussion, angelfire.com has a good article on this Scripture passage.