4:1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting 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 for a drink from 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 water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will 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, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

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 the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people 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 is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people 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 tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town 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 town and were coming to him.

I’m not sure there is any better story in the whole New Testament. I absolutely love this exchange between Jesus and the woman at the well. It may perhaps be the single most powerful passage where Jesus speaks against cultural/racial/ethnic barriers as well as the power of Christ to fill the deep longings of the soul. But I’m getting way ahead of things.

One of the things that is great about John’s gospel is the way he presents Jesus. He does a great job balancing the two natures of Christ. He is, at the very same time, both God and man – the theanthropos (literally, the “god-man”). John does this with little phrases like in John 11:35 (the shortest verse in all of Scripture) that simply reads, “Jesus wept.” Here in verse 6 John explains that Jesus was tired from walking around so much. I love the human element here – and the fact that it is Jesus’ human frailty that leads him to  this incredible interaction with this extremely messed-up chic.

I want to focus on two things – first is what Jesus says to the woman in 16-18 when he tells her, “you are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband…” What does Jesus say this to her? Was it simply to throw her sin in her face so that she would be able to jump to the obvious conclusion that he is a prophet (which is what the woman deduced from this comment – v 19)? That’s not typically the way Jesus does things.

Instead, I think that Jesus figuratively wants her to go get her husband (or rather her tendency to jump from one relationship to another) and bring him back and compare him to Jesus. See the water in the well is just like her husband – he quenches her thirst for a time, but pretty soon she has to go dip her bucket in someone else’s well. Jesus, on the other hand is the water of life – one that truly satisfies. Jesus is offering her something that won’t leave her just naked and ashamed in the morning – he’s offering her life that lasts and not just a quick hook-up.

It’s all about worship isn’t it? And the woman at the well understands this well. She switches the conversation – she’s been exposed – and she tries to cover her nakedness by saying, “look prophet-man, worship only happens in Jerusalem in the temple.” But Jesus isn’t ready to let her get away so easily – worship is no longer tied to a person’s geographical location – it’s about truth and about the heart of the one worshipping.

Life is worship. You can’t disconnect your moral choices from worship. You can’t disconnect what you use to satisfy the deep longings of your heart from your worship. Whatever you are using to quench your thirst – that is the thing that you worship. This woman was worshipping acceptance, love and an intimate touch, but she was seeking it from a source that could never truly provide it. Jesus is saying to her that He is what she really wants – so go ahead, get your husband and see how he compares.

What’s so amazing about this passage is the woman’s response – verse 28 – she left her water jar and went to tell people about Jesus. What a response! This passage should cause us to ask ourselves something – what is our response to the living Christ? There are only two responses to a true encounter with Christ…you should either hate him and reject him or you ought to lay down your water jar and worship. The gospel is not content to let us remain in our false worship. Instead, it quenches our thirst and sends us out to point others to Christ.

What’s beautiful about this story is that Jesus understood better than this woman what it means to thirst. Where else do we see Jesus thirsty? At the end of his life, hanging from the tree between two pathetic losers. On the cross, he thirsted so that this woman might lay down her water jar and never thirst again. (thanks to my good friend Shane Sunn from St. Patrick Pres in Greeley for this connection between Jesus’ thirst on the cross and the woman at the well.)