At the beginning of my college career, as I began to fumble around the Bible on my own, I occasionally took my thoughts and questions to a Christian friend who was much more knowledgeable in all things Bible related. He offered some insight and perspective in areas where I was struggling. During one mini Bible study, he made an observation which has stuck with me for years.
We were discussing the woman at the well. This story is found in John, chapter 4, if you are interested in reading it for yourself, but I’ll go ahead and summarize it.
Jesus was passing through Samaria on his way to Galilee and stopped at a well to rest (Jacob’s well, to be exact). He had not been there long, when a Samaritan woman came by herself to draw water from the well. For a little background information, you need to know that there was almost always tension between Jews and Samaritans. Jews often would not speak to Samaritans. So, the woman was shocked when Jesus (a Jew) requested some water to drink.
“You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” She asked.
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.”
Of course, the idea of living water (flowing water) baffled the Samaritan woman, so Jesus went on to explain.
“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.”
That sounded pretty good to the woman, so she begged Jesus for some of this water… but then, Jesus said something even more incredible. He told the woman secrets about her life… personal things.
“You don’t have a husband – for you’ve had five husbands and you aren’t even married to the man you are living with now.”
At this point, if I was the Samaritan woman, I think I’d be pretty dumbfounded. She knew, from the conversation so far, that Jesus must be a prophet, so she decided to ask him about religion, specifically where to worship.
Jesus said, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming – indeed it is here now – when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
“I know the Messiah is coming – the one who is called Christ,” said the woman. “When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then, Jesus revealed his identity. “I am the Messiah.”
Here’s where the story gets really good… The woman was so excited to hear this from Jesus that she ran back home and immediately began telling everyone what she had heard. She was in such a hurry, that she left her water jar at the well. Many Samaritans believed in Jesus after they heard the woman’s story, and many were able to spend time with Jesus because he ended up staying in the woman’s village for a couple of days.
Many people exclaimed, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world!”
I had heard this story many times… It was just your typical VBS Bible story. But after discussing this particular passage with my friend, he pointed out the significance of the water jar that was left behind. The whole purpose for the woman coming to the well was insignificant after she realized she had spoken with her Savior.
The region where Jacob’s well was located was typically dry, and water was a precious commodity. Samaria has no river running through it, which would have been described as living water (flowing water). This is why people used wells. Retrieving water from this well would’ve been a regular and necessary chore for this Samaritan woman. Who would have thought that such a mundane task could change a person’s life!
I think many of us can relate to the Samaritan woman on some level. Her love life was a bit of a scandal. Many might have deemed her unworthy of such an experience with the Messiah. Jesus knew everything about the woman before he chose to speak with her. He saw her sin and he knew her heart. And that didn’t stop him from loving her and reaching out to her.
But there is an astounding lesson to be learned from this woman. As I read this story, I find myself praying for her dedication and enthusiasm. I find myself striving to be like her.
She left her water jar. After she learned that the Messiah had come and that her Savior was going to save the world, it just wasn’t important anymore. And she ran! She RAN back to the village and IMMEDIATELY started telling everyone what had happened.
Here I am… holding a Bible. I have the message that Jesus told the woman at the well. And I’m sitting on my couch, in my apartment with comfortable furnishings, having just enjoyed a good meal, an exciting movie, and some snap chats from my sister. Shouldn’t I be in a hurry to pass this message along? The Samaritan woman ran back to her village and immediately spread the word. I want that enthusiasm! The Samaritan woman left her water jar! Why is it so hard for me to get my priorities straight? I want that dedication!
What is wrong with me? I always think, “Tomorrow, I’ll talk to this person about Jesus.” “Maybe next week, I’ll invite my friend to church.” “Maybe in a couple of years, I’ll go overseas on a mission trip.”
But I just can’t right now… you know, I have too much stuff. I have a job to do. I have things to take care of. I have water to get from that well and I can’t be bothered right now to do something of greater importance. I can’t be distracted by Christ’s command to spread the gospel. Maybe some other time.
Oh man… the excuses that I make.
So, tonight, I’m reading the story about the woman at the well, again. I’m praying to be more like that woman who could so easily distinguish between what was urgent and what could wait; between what was eternal and what was worldly. I’m praying to be more like that woman who couldn’t wait to share her experience with others. Maybe, as a Christian, you are struggling with the same issue. I hope this story will also encourage you and motivate you to be obedient to your faith and accomplish the will of our Father in heaven.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Corinthians 16:23-24