The willingness of Jesus to speak to the woman at the well is both a comfort and a challenge. It’s a comfort if we identify with the Samaritan woman. Are you an outsider? A stranger in a strange land? Do people look down on you as something less than human?
The good news is that Jesus steps over the lines. He crosses boundaries, violates social customs to meet those in need, those sinners most in need of redemption. He treats the Samaritan woman just as he does religious leaders like Nicodemus. He offers them much the same thing. This is both a comfort and a challenge. We are challenged to do likewise. To treat the Samaritan women in our world the same as we treat the Nicodemuses.
This is a challenge because it requires us to see each other not in human terms, no longer from a “human point of view” as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, but with the eyes of faith.
My Grandma Roberts was a Samaritan woman in her day. A hillbilly, fresh from Eastern Kentucky; moved up with her husband and eight children to find factory work in Indiana after the war. She saw through the eyes of faith. They say she could pick tomatoes as good as any man and she did it, to put food on the table. She was a strong woman and what impressed me most about her, what continues to amaze me is how she met the many challenges she faced looking straight ahead, not bowing down to anyone but God. She refused to see shame because she saw through the eyes of faith.
I believe it is possible to see through the eyes of faith. Maybe not to change all the bad influences in society, but to see things in a different way, to see each other in a new way. No longer from a human point of view, but with the eyes of faith. It is then that we step over the dividing lines with Christ and experience the hope of new life.
Jesus goes up to the Samaritan woman and asks for a drink of water. She’s taken aback. Jesus goes on, “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.”
Like Nicodemus, she doesn’t understand. How are we to understand? The living water which Jesus speaks of us is a gift of God given to those who thirst. It is not the same as eternal life, but like the water that sustains life, this living water wells up eternally, and satisfies our innermost longings. Both Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman have this kind of thirst. Only the living water which is the free gift of God in Christ could satisfy their thirst.
This living water is not something you can bottle up and carry around with you. It is God’s gift given when we most need it.
We find this living water in the word of God as we read and study the Scriptures. We find this living water as we pray together and alone, out loud and in silence. We find this living water as God’s Spirit moves within and among us, allowing us to see through the eyes of faith.
This living water is not a luxury, but a basic necessity for spiritual life. It sustains us through the difficult moments in our lives. As we grieve the loss of a loved one. As we face separation from our children and parents. As we struggle to face the challenges of daily living.
This living water is offered to everyone. Even a woman of Samaria.
It is no wonder that we read later in chapter four of John, in the epilogue to the story of the woman at the well.
“Many Samaritans from that city believed in him, in Christ, because of the woman’s testimony…”
Nothing would ever be the same. She ran off to share her joy with others. This is the living water.