I love how Jesus takes eternal truths and makes them simple enough for a child to understand. He explains the Kingdom of God by telling a story of a farmer sowing seeds. He illustrates God’s care by speaking of lilies and sparrows. He explains God’s personal knowledge of us by saying the Father knows the number of hairs on each of our heads. Every mental image Jesus paints is understandable and impactful. I’ve heard it said that truly intelligent people make subjects easier to understand, not harder. Jesus speaks with a clarity befitting God’s Son.
In John 4, Jesus and His disciples return to Galilee from Judea, passing through a region known as Samaria. Although Samaritans are partly Jewish in birth and tradition, the Jews of Jesus’ day hated the Samaritans for establishing their own Passover sacrifices on Mount Gerizim, rather than in Jerusalem. On this particular day, Jesus and His disciples approach the Samaritan town of Sychar. It’s about noon and Jesus sits by the city well while the disciples go into town to buy food.
Are you thirsty?
A Samaritan woman comes to the well as Jesus is resting. Jesus breaks Jewish tradition and talks with the woman. At first, she taunts Him for speaking with her. However, He uses the simple illustration of thirst and water to help her understand her deeper need.
“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.’ ” (John 4:13-14 NASB).
Jesus has gained her complete attention. She has come to the well in the heat of the day to get water. This woman has lived a very hard life. She has given herself over to adultery and has, no doubt, separated herself from family and friends. She has manipulated and deceived any man she could find, just to scrape by in poverty. She hasn’t had many things go her way.
“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.’ ” (John 4:15 NASB).
Though Jesus’ offer of an endless source of water might sound unimaginable, the woman’s response isn’t disbelief; she answers with hope and perhaps, a little desperation. Scrambling to meet the most fundamental needs in her life has always cost her painfully. Even the simple act of quenching her thirst is a long dusty walk. She stays alive by swapping whatever labor or resources she has just to gain a little food, water, and shelter.
What would you give for a drink of this water?
We live in a world where most of us trade for our basic needs on a daily basis. We offer our labor for wages. We exchange money for food and water; we purchase shelter and transportation. We barter continuously for nearly everything in our lives. We trade so much, in fact, that we hardly notice it. Most of the time, it’s hard, cold math. But, like the woman at the well, we never seem to come out ahead. Our labor and our sins bring us up short in a lopsided trade to heal ourselves.
Some needs are so deep that we may not know they exist until they’re met. The Samaritan woman is taken by surprise to know there is “a well of water springing up to eternal life.” A few hours earlier knew nothing of Jesus the Messiah. Now, she’s discovered an incredible treasure for which she would trade nearly anything. This is precisely the image Jesus creates when He speaks parables about the Kingdom of God.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46 NASB).
These parables aren’t implying that the Kingdom of Heaven can be purchased. Rather, the stories cry out that if we glimpse the greatness and the glory of God’s Kingdom, we can’t help but go “all in.” Nothing in this life compares to the glory of God. If we don’t feel that way, perhaps we haven’t quite discovered the Kingdom.
Buying without a price?
Sometimes offers are marked “free” and we’re justifiably suspicious. “Why would someone give something away for free?” We look for the fine print. “Do we need to purchase another product to get the free item?” “Is the free vacation an opportunity for an advertiser to give a hard-sell for an expensive purchase? The principle of fair trade is so engrained that we can’t believe we’re receiving something for nothing. But read what God has done for us:
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.
Incline your ear and come to Me.
Listen, that you may live.” (Isaiah 55:1-3 NASB).
Just like the woman at the well, we may be among those that barely scrape by. Perhaps, we spend money “for what is not bread.” We may give our entire lives away and never receive a sense of satisfaction in return. Worse yet, just as the Jews looked down upon the Samaritans, Christians sometimes extend nothing but judgment and condemnation.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NASB).
Jesus still sits at the well. He sits at the well of water that springs up to eternal life. He speaks with whoever will come. Are you thirsty?
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