Gospel Reading: John 4:5-42 (alternate reading: Luke 13:1-9)
5 So he came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." 8 For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered her, "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." 11 The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?" 13 Jesus said to her, "Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." 15 The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." 16 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here."
17 The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, `I have no husband'; 18 for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly." 19 The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." 21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." 25 The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things." 26 Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he."
27 Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, "What do you wish?" or, "Why are you talking with her?" 28 So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, 29 "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?" 30 They went out of the city and were coming to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." 32 But he said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." 33 So the disciples said to one another, "Has any one brought him food?" 34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, `There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. 36 He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, `One sows and another reaps.' 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." 39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word.
Old Testament Reading: Exodus 17:3-7
3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" 4 So Moses cried to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." 5 And the LORD said to Moses, "Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the faultfinding of the children of Israel, and because they put the LORD to the proof by saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"
Meditation: Do you thirst for God - the one and only true
source of abundant life and joy that lasts forever? John in his
Gospel account shows us how Jesus tore down walls of division and
opened the way for all to receive him as Lord and Savior, Healer
ministry was centered mainly in Galilee and in Jerusalem. He
the physical borders of Israel. But on one occasion early on in
he decided to cross through Samaria, a land which divided Galilee
far north from Jerusalem and the region of Judaea in the
John in his Gospel account states that "Jesus had to pass through"
Samaria - a land that was off-limits to the Jews who did not want
to have anything to do with them (John 4:4). Why did Jesus feel
compelled to travel through hostile territory? As John’s account
of Jesus trip through Samaria unfolds, we begin to see that Jesus
had a very particular mission he wanted to accomplish there.
Jesus chooses to rest at Jacob's well
John tells us that Jesus chose to stop at Jacob's well, a place of great religious significance both for the Jews and for the Samaritans. Jacob was one of the three great patriarchs - beginning with Abraham, the father of faith, and Isaac his son, who in turn is the father of Jacob. Jacob holds a special place of remembrance for the Samaritans because he had settled there and purchased a plot of land not far from the town of Sychar (Genesis 33:18-19). Jacob dug a well there for his family and flocks.
Jacob's favorite son was Joseph. After Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold as a slave into Egypt, God raised him up as Pharoah’s chief steward. During a time of great famine which lasted for seven years, Joseph saved his family from death and brought his father Jacob to live with him in Egypt. Jacob on his deathbed bequeathed this well to Joseph (Genesis 48:22). After Joseph had died in Egypt, his body was transported back to Samaria and buried close to the well (Joshua 24:32). The Samaritans claim Jacob as their father and trace their ancestors to Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph.
Jesus recognized Jacob as one of his forefathers in the flesh, and he also understood that his own mission was to fulfill the covenant promises which God had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus now comes to Jacob's well, not simply to rest but to bring revelation of the good news of salvation to the people of Samaria.
Breaking down barriers
When Jesus and his disciples reached Jacob's well, Jesus sent them on ahead to buy food in the nearby town of Sychar. Jesus remained alone at the well. When a Samaritan woman shows up, she was surprised to see a Jewish man sitting next to the well in the harsh midday sun. Why was he alone, without any travel bag, food, or water jug for his journey? Shouldn't he have known that the next town was a half-mile away where he could find shelter and cool refreshment?
As she approached the well and began to draw water with her rope and bucket, Jesus greeted her and began to converse with her at length. According to the customs of the time, it was improper and even scandalous for a man to be seen with a woman in a public place. A proper woman would flee if a man who wasn't her husband tried to approach her in public. Rabbis were especially careful to avoid contact with women in public. So this encounter was all the more extraordinary in that Jesus deliberately sought to speak with this woman and treat her with special consideration as if she were one of his close friends.
Of all the people Jesus could have chosen to single out for a personal encounter that day, why did he choose to speak with a Samaritan woman? Wouldn’t it have been more advantageous for him to speak with one of the leading Samaritans - one of their elders, scribes, or teachers? What business could Jesus have with a woman who had never heard of him before?
Another unusual twist to this story is that the woman choose to
come out to this remote well which was at least a half-mile away
from her village. And she picked the hottest time of day to travel
- at midday (noon time) when the sun was most intense. It
certainly would have been more convenient for her to draw water
from the town well inside the village of Sychar where she lived.
Women usually drew water during the cooler morning time or nearer
to the evening when the sun was setting. It is very likely that
this woman chose to come to this remote well in the middle of the
day because she had been shunned by the other women in her own
village and driven away from their company due to her loose living
and scandalous reputation.
As we follow the story recorded in chapter 4 of John's Gospel, it doesn't take long to discover the real motive and reason for Jesus' conversation with a woman of bad repute. The short dialogue which John records between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is most likely a brief condensed summary of the key points of their conversation. Let’s examine the flow of the conversation as John relays it.
Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food).
The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.
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." - John 4:7-15 (NIV translation)
Thirsting for God
We can see from the conversation that the woman is at first intrigued with Jesus. He's a weary traveler who is alone and helpless to draw water from the deep well since he had not brought with him any rope and utensil for drawing, drinking, and storing water for later use. Jesus is also breaking a social and religious barrier - Jews refused to have any dealings with Samaritans. Jesus does the unthinkable - he offers her friendship.
Then Jesus makes her an offer that she simply cannot comprehend. She takes him quite literally when he states that he could give her living water that will quench her thirst forever. All that she can think of is, "Where in this remote and arid land could this Jewish man possibly find a flowing spring of fresh cool water that can satisfy my thirst today, tomorrow, and forever? He must be crazy or he doesn't know what he is talking about."
When Jesus used the expression "living water" he was referring to something which only God could supply. The Scriptures often spoke of water figuratively as an image of the soul thirsting for God.
As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. - Psalm 42:1,2The Jews understood that in every human heart there is a thirst which only God can satisfy. God is the true living fountain who can quence our thirst forever. Isaiah prophesied that the chosen people would draw water with joy from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3). Jesus states a Messianic claim that he can give the true "living water" that will not only satisfy our thirst for God but give us eternal life as well.
You give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life. - Psalm 36:8,9
Facing the truth
After Jesus speaks about the "living-water," he now speaks very directly to her in a very personal manner to bring her to her own senses. Jesus reveals that he knows everything about her - even her secret sins, failings, loose living, and total inadequacy. She is suddenly compelled to face up to herself.
Jesus told her, "Go, call your husband and come back."Her immediate response, however, is to evade Jesus' inward gaze at her heart and soul. She tries to steer the conversation to another topic - to one of the major religious issues between the Jews and the Samaritans - where the true worship of God should be conducted. The Samaritans had built their temple on Mount Gerazim, while the Jews held that the true temple was on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
"I have no husband," she replied.
Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true." - John 4:16-18
"Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." - John 4:19-20Worship in Spirit and truth
Jesus replied, "Believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth." - John 4:21-24The Messiah is here
The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."Sharing the good news
Then Jesus declared, "I, the one speaking to you - I am he." - John 4:25-26
She returned to her village a changed person full of joy, forgiveness, and wonderment at what Jesus had done for her. It did not take long for more barriers to fall down. As soon as she arrived in town she told everyone she could meet what had happened to her at Jacob's well. Her joyful testimony of what Jesus had said and done for her left a deep impression on everyone. Could this man, named Jesus, really be the promised Messiah? They had to go and find out for themselves. So the whole crowd went out to the well to meet Jesus and to hear his message of the "living water" and the coming of God's kingdom.They, too, believed in Jesus and begged him to stay in their village.
John tells us that Jesus and his disciples spent two days at Sychar talking to all the people there. The villagers believed in Jesus and openly testified that this man really is the Savior of the world.The joy of salvation
"This is the water of the Spirit: It refreshes paradise, enriches the earth, gives life to living things. It is the water of Christ's baptism; it is our life. If you go with faith to this renewing fountain, you renounce Satan your enemy and confess Christ your God. You cease to be a slave and become an adopted son. You come forth radiant as the sun and brilliant with justice. You come forth a son of God and fellow-heir with Christ." (From a sermon, On the Epiphany)Through the gift of the Spirit, the Lord Jesus gives us boldness and confidence to share the good news of salvation to our neighbors, families, friends, and people we meet along the way. May the Holy Spirit fill each one of us with the joy of salvation and the boldness to tell our neighbors what God has done for us and what he offers them as well.
The image of "living water" is used throughout the scriptures as a symbol of God's wisdom, a wisdom that imparts life and blessing to all who receive it. "The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life" (Proverbs 13:14). "Living water" was also a symbol for the Jews of thirst of the soul for God. The water which Jesus spoke of symbolized the Holy Spirit and his work of recreating us in God's image and sustaining in us the new life which comes from God. The life which the Holy Spirit produces in us makes us a "new creation" in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Do you thirst for God and for the life of the Holy Spirit within you?
Hippolytus (170-236 AD), an early Christian writer and theologian who lived in Rome, explains the significance of the Holy Spirit's work in us:
"This is the water of the Spirit: It refreshes paradise, enriches the earth, gives life to living things. It is the water of Christ's baptism; it is our life. If you go with faith to this renewing fountain, you renounce Satan your enemy and confess Christ your God. You cease to be a slave and become an adopted son. You come forth radiant as the sun and brilliant with justice. You come forth a son of God and fellow-heir with Christ." (From a sermon, On the Epiphany)"Lord Jesus, my soul thirsts for you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may always find joy in your presence and take delight in doing your will."
1 O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us
make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
6 O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would hearken to his voice!
8 Harden not your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
A Daily Quote for Lent: The Living Water of the Spirit, by John Chrysostom, 347-407 AD
Sometimes Scripture calls the grace of the Spirit "fire," other
times it calls it "water." In this way, it shows that these names
are not descriptive of its essence but of its operation. For the
Spirit, which is invisible and simple, cannot be made up of
different substances... In the same way that he calls the Spirit
by the name of "fire," alluding to the rousing and warming
property of grace and its power of destroying sins, he calls it
"water" in order to highlight the cleansing it does and the great
refreshment it provides those minds that receive it. For it makes
the willing soul like a kind of garden, thick with all kinds of
fruitful and productive trees, allowing it neither to feel
despondency nor the plots of Satan. It quenches all the fiery
darts of the wicked one. (HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL
OF JOHN 32.1)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible:
Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright
1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard
Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the
Division of Christian Education of the National
Council of the Churches of Christ in the United
States of America. Used by permission. All rights
reserved. Citation references for quotes from
the writings of the early church fathers can be
The Daily Scripture Readings and Meditations is in need of on-going development to expand resources and to reach people around the world. If you would like to contribute, you can make an online donation.