When Jesus appeared in Israel announcing himself as the long-awaited savior of the world, he presented an offer of living water to all who would receive it. This offer was meant to draw people away from temporary solutions to the one solution that would permanently meet the spiritual needs of those who were bound in sin and the effects of those sinful choices. When Jesus sat down at a well in Samaria, he encountered a woman who had come to meet a physical need, but whose needs were far deeper. Jesus began by asking a question of the woman that would draw out her spiritual condition.
“A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’” (John 4:7).
Jesus initiated the conversation since the woman would not do so. She would have immediately recognized Jesus as a Jewish man and assumed that he would have nothing to do with her. The Samaritans were looked down on by the Jews, but Jesus as God in human flesh was presenting a better way. Rather than condemning her sinful condition, he chose to offer a way of life and water was the metaphor he used to open her mind to the truth. Her focus was on physical water and so Jesus asked her for a drink of such water, but in truth, he desired to point her to himself as the source of living water.
“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” (John 4:10).
Jesus focused first on the gift of grace that God offers to all who are lost in sin.
Every human being enters the world broken and in need of God’s mercy. Sin has affected every human being and separates him or her from a life that only comes from the Lord. The first thing that is necessary is to understand that salvation and eternal life are only possible because of the grace of God.
God is perfect and holy and thus is unable to be in the presence of sin. Every human being is separated from God because every human being is a sinner. Sin is not merely actions in opposition to God’s desires, but thoughts and desires that are warped. Jesus brought the presence of God’s holiness to life in himself, but at the same time, he also brought the grace of God that alone enables human beings to be delivered from sin and to be made holy in the sight of God. The Apostle Paul wrote of the free gift of God available to all.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
This is the gift of God that Jesus challenged the Samaritan woman to recognize.
Salvation from God is only by the grace of God and is only accessed by faith in Jesus. There is no work that a person can do and therefore no human being can boast of being better than another. All people come to the cross of Jesus Christ on the same level. While some may attain a higher level of sanctification through holy living, all are holy in God’s sight merely by the grace of God and only because Jesus is the intermediary between God and man. Only Jesus lived a perfect life and gave himself as a satisfactory offering for all humankind. Access to salvation is only through Jesus and thus living water comes only to those who recognize their sinful condition, understand that Jesus alone can supply living water, and that access to living water comes only through humble request. The Samaritan woman, like all people, would have to get past her own areas of theological confusion and personal pain in order to humbly seek from Jesus the water that alone provides eternal life and that alone provides deliverance from the bondage of sin. The woman was initially focused on earthly provision, but Jesus continued to point her beyond to that which would meet her spiritual need.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13, 14).
Earthly solutions are limited.
While they provide temporary relief, they require continual use. Earthly water provides relief for the moment but is not a permanent solution. Living water, available only from Jesus, will provide permanent relief from spiritual thirst.
The Samaritan woman, like all people, was searching for solutions to her spiritual pain in human solutions, but these had merely resulted in more pain and frustration. Her sin had separated her from God and from her community, but Jesus was offering her a way to truly deal with her pain that would produce within her an eternal quality of life. The living water that Jesus was offering would produce within her and within all who would receive it the ability to be set free from sinful bondage and to live as God desires. This eternal quality of life begins on Earth and continues past death for eternity in the presence of God and all who come to God by faith in Jesus and receive eternal life. Though Jesus brought an eternal perspective, the woman continued to focus on earthly concerns.
“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” (John 4:15).
The woman understood her physical need and her isolation in the community, but Jesus continued to challenge her to recognize her spiritual need and the sin that separated her from God. She had to come to a clear understanding of the heart of God and most importantly of who Jesus was. She thought in terms of theological disputes and of a future coming of the Messiah, but Jesus challenged her to see him as the Messiah, the promised one of God, right before her. Living water is available to those who rightly recognize their own sinful state and rightly recognize Jesus as the only solution. Jesus brought the woman to the right point and declared himself as the Messiah.
“Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4:26).
Jesus is the source of living water.
He is the Messiah that was to come. He is God’s promise of making a way for sinful human beings to be reconciled to their maker and to have eternal life. The woman went away and declared to those around her, those from whom her sin had isolated her, that in Jesus was the source of living water. She became a symbol of a life changed by Jesus and her belief in him made her a carrier of living water that leads to eternal life. The people responded to her testimony.
“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did’” (John 4:39).
Jesus had laid bare all the woman’s sinfulness, but rather than condemning her, he had given her living water that transformed her from the inside out. Many others responded by faith as she had done and so they also received living water that transformed them from the inside out. Eternal life does not come from outward discipline, but from God’s life bubbling up from within and showing itself in outward change. God’s living waterworks inside those who put their faith in Jesus for salvation and overtime change their outward behavior to be pleasing to God. Living water is available to all who understand that salvation is only by the gift of God’s grace and is accessible only through faith in Jesus and all he is and all he has done. Those who recognize who Jesus truly is and give themselves to him receive living water that meets every spiritual need and thus those who do so will never thirst again.