The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well offers an invitation to living water.
Imagine the Samaritan woman for a moment. She comes to the well in the middle of the day when no one else is likely to brave the heat. She knows what people say about her…The woman who couldn’t keep a husband. The woman who brought disgrace. She hears the whispers as she walks through the market when she has to go there to buy something. She tries to avoid it so that she won’t have to hear it. Just like she avoids going to the well when other people might be there.
But then a chance encounter changes her life. She goes to the well at a moment when she hopes no one is there. But a stranger is waiting—a man, a Jew. She knows she shouldn’t talk to him. It will just fuel the chatter about her. The man speaks to her and asks her for water and she questions him. “Why would you ask me for water?” Jesus offers her a drink of the “living water.” At first, the woman takes this literally, asking him where he will get this water—he has no bucket. As they engage in this conversation, the woman realizes that she needs the water. Very matter-of-factly Jesus tells her to call her husband. She responds by saying she doesn’t have a husband. Jesus doesn’t lecture her. He doesn’t question how she got into her situation. He simply acknowledges her reality. He doesn’t try to fix or change her.
Then the conversation moves to faith. She wants to know why Jews and Samaritans worship in different places. Jesus explains to her that it won’t matter where people worship as long as they worship in Spirit and in truth. The spirit is the breath of God that is within each of us. We think something being true means that it is factual. What was intended in the Greek seems to be a sense of dependability and loyalty. If we worship in Spirit and in truth this seems to suggest that we depend on the breath of God within us. We are loyal to the spirit of God within us.
Each of us needs to find the spirit of God within us. The spirit of God within me will look different than the spirit of God within you. We each have a unique breath of God that makes us who we are. The Samaritan woman had the breath of God within her and Jesus recognized that spirit. It spoke to him. The conversation that the Samaritan woman had with Jesus gave her the ability to depend on the Spirit within her. It gave her the courage to be the person God created her to be. In being the person God created her to be, she received the life-giving water of Jesus. This life-giving water is for everyone.
In Matthew, Jesus tells the disciples not to go through Samaria and not to speak to the Samaritans. Matthew excludes the Samaritans but John specifically includes them.
The writer of John was having a conflict with the temple authorities. John’s Christian-Jews were trying to share what they knew about Jesus with the Jewish community and having little success. So in this story they seem to be expanding the audience—if our community won’t listen, the Samaritans will listen.
We all need to be refreshed by the living water but sometimes those of us who have spent a long time around the church become immune to the water being offered. Its easy to get caught in our routines. The time we spend at church becomes a burden. Maybe the relationships are too challenging so we step back. We might be a bit like the temple authorities John was pushing against. We are comfortable.
And then Jesus speaks to an outsider. Someone with different ideas. Someone who doesn’t seem like us. Someone that its easy to whisper and gossip about. That person finds the living water. It refreshes and renews them. They invite us to drink. We are invited to come and see. We are invited to drink the living water—sometimes by someone unexpected.