Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 5 2013 - John 4:7-42 – The fountain of living water

John 4 records a remarkable conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water from the well where Jesus was sitting. Jesus initiates a conversation with the woman by asking her to give him a drink of water. The woman recognises that Jesus is a Jew, either from his accent or from his clothing, and is astonished that he should speak to her. Jews would not normally strike up conversations with Samaritans; a lone man would not normally strike up a conversation with a lone woman – particularly with a woman who came alone to a well in the heat of the day. Jesus broke all conventions to speak with this woman.

Jesus turns the initial conversation about water into an enigmatic declaration concerning himself; “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (4:10). Jesus’ words seem designed to confuse; if he had water to give this woman, why did he ask for water from her? It’s little wonder that she responds with a sarcastic comment, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jacob was Israel, the father of the nation and common ancestor of both Jew and Samaritan. Who could be greater than Israel?

Jesus' answer makes it clear that he is indeed greater than Israel. Through the life that he gives, he becomes the source and head of a vast number of people from every nation under heaven. He is the source not of a new nation but of a new creation. He is the one who will break down every barrier between peoples for the day is dawning when the good news concerning Jesus will be preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and then in the whole world. There is no-one greater than Jesus; He is Christ the Lord.

Jesus has come to satisfy the universal thirst found in the human spirit; the thirst for authenticity, for wholeness, for forgiveness and cleansing, for acceptance and belonging, for contentment, for an end to the restless search for peace and satisfaction. Jesus says that those who come to him will never thirst again. He satisfies the thirsty soul with the river of life that flows into them – his living presence with us by his Spirit (cf. John 7:37-39).

When the disciples return with food for Jesus he tells them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about" (4:32). Jesus then goes on to explain, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together... I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour" (4:34-38).

There is work that is more important than food or drink; it is the work of bringing people back to God through a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the reason Jesus was sent into the world. It was the work that preoccupied him – preoccupied him for a time with the Samaritan woman. It is a work that remains unfinished. It is a work that is to preoccupy us.

Lord Jesus, open my eyes to the work you have for me today. Give me a heart for people and a readiness to break down barriers created by prejudice and fear. Give me the wisdom to know how to enter into conversations that will cause people to abandon their water jars and drink of the river of living water that can satisfy the thirsty soul.

Peter Misselbrook