Fetching Living Water

John 4:1-16

“​1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” 2 —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— 3 he left Judea and started back to Galilee. 4 But he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to 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?” (Jews do not share things in common 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 no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

This is such a beautiful story. You will recall that after King Solomon’s death, the Kingdom of Israel divided into two kingdoms, the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah). The capital city of Judah was Jerusalem. The capital city of Israel was Samaria. Israel fell to the Assyrians around 721 BC, never to return. Judah fell to the Babylonians around 587 BC leading to the Babylonian Exile. Nearly fifty years later, the Jews were free to return home. It became the Israel of Jesus’ day and, more or less, the Israel we know today. Also in Jesus’ day, the residents of the land once known as the Northern Kingdom were known as “Samaritans.”

Here, John revisits the ancient divisions between the Jews and the Samaritans in this conversation at the well. Note, it is the woman who recounts the history. And, in John’s typical story-telling style, Jesus and the woman talk past each other. Verses 10 and 11 so beautifully capture this when Jesus talks about living water and the woman replies, “​ “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” If this exchange appeared anywhere else but the Bible, it would be good sit-com material.

Tomorrow, we will listen in on the rest of the story.

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