Living Water for Today

Good afternoon from Westminster, MD!

Does spiritual hope make a difference in a person’s life today? Can it change a person’s view of themselves? A formerly hopeless woman who had a life changing encounter at a well would say yes.

She was an outcast, even among her fellow outcasts. As a Samaritan, she was born on the “wrong side of the tracks”, seen as unworthy of association by the Jewish people. As a woman who had been married five times and was now living with a man out of wedlock, she was even rejected by her people, the Samaritans. This had become her identity. Wanting to avoid the glares of others, she went to fetch water from the well during the hottest hours of the day as she knew she would be alone. “Better to endure the sweltering heat than be reminded how little her life mattered”, she thought. She seemed to be doomed to a life of “less than”.

Getting closer to the well, she noticed someone else was unexpectedly there. Her plan had not worked. Even worse, it was a Jewish man. “Why would a Jewish man be at a Samaritan well in the middle of the day,” she pondered as anxiety began to set in. She would just try to avoid eye contact and make it a quick trip. “He will want to stay as far away from me as he can anyway”, she reasoned. Except she was mistaken.

“Will you give me a drink?”, he said.

“Realizing she had nowhere to hide, she replied, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir”, the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”[1]

 The surprise interaction goes on. Jesus goes on to tell her he knows her story. He knows her life circumstances had become her identity. She saw no way out and believed the lie that she was hopeless and why wouldn’t she? Society said she was hopeless. Her reality looked hopeless. Why would she believe anything could ever change? However, Jesus did not leave her there.

After making clear he knew her story and current reality, Jesus painted a picture of a reframed identity. At the end of this fateful conversation, she said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

The Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”[2]

Do you see it? A woman who believed she was forgotten and unseen by God at best, and cursed at worst had an encounter that showed her otherwise. If the Messiah, the Savior sent by God in her faith tradition, would choose to step into her world to offer her new life, how could she not see herself differently? In “living water” Jesus offered a spiritual hope that changed a woman stuck in hopelessness into a beacon of hope for her community.

How do we know? Later in the recounting of the story, we are told she, who previously avoided everyone, went back to her town to tell them about this Jesus and what he said. The change in her must have made an impression as many of these Samaritan ”outcasts” grabbed onto the same spiritual hope.

Spiritual hope connects a person with their true, God-given identity. Changing the way you see yourself, changes the way you see the future. Changing the way you see the future can change the way you live today.

It did for this Samaritan woman and it can for you and me.

James Belt

[1] John 4:7-15

[2] John 4:25-26

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