This is a quick review of last week’s Sunday School lesson. We meet every Sunday morning in room WC104 at 9:00 AM. This story takes place in John Chapter 4
The woman at the well.
If you have spent much time in church or reading the New Testament you are most likely familiar with this story. If we can read it with new eyes and ears we can learn something with her.
Her personal story is, likely, a lot more complicated than we have all taken the time to examine. We know from the story that she was married five times and was currently living with a man resulting in a minimum of six serious relationships. The scripture doesn’t tell us why she had been divorced so many times but let’s consider some of the possible reasons.
Infertility: In this culture one of the primary responsibilities of a woman was to provide offspring for her husband. If this woman was infertile she would have been considered worthless by all the men of Samaria.
Widow: It is possible that all five of her husbands had died. If that was the case then it is very likely that everyone viewed her as a women who was cursed by God.
Affairs: It is possible that her husbands had left her for other women. If this was the case then she would most likely have some very negative feelings about herself.
We don’t know if she had been divorced five times because of her behavior or because of the behavior of others. What we do know from the story is that she was physically thirsty and that she was also spiritually thirsty. She had tried everything in her power to quench her thirst but life had left her thirsty.
The author of this story, John, gives us some interesting details. He tells us that she came out to the well in the middle of the day. Normally the women of the city would come out early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat. They also came in groups for safety and company. The woman in this story did neither. She came all by herself.
Imagine for a moment as she heads toward the well she passes a few Jewish men. These were Jesus’ disciples. He had sent them into town to get food. She must have been very surprised to see these men. Jews never went into Samaria. The Jews looked down on Samaritans. Samaritans were a mixed race of Jews and other nations as a result of being invaded in 720 BC by Assyria.
After she passed the disciples she would have looked up and noticed a single man sitting at the well. It was no accident that Jesus was sitting there waiting for her. Even John, writing this story years after its occurrence, stats that Jesus “had to go through Samaria” when we know that he did not “have” to do that at all. Normally Jews went around Samaria. Jesus “had to go through Samaria” because Jesus and this woman had a divine appointment.
Little did this woman know she was moments away from a one-on-one conversation with the Savior of the World. That plays would be written and performed about her. That Songs would be written and performed in her honor. That for time and eternity she would be known as “The Woman at the Well.” All she knew was that she was physically thirsty and there seemed to be a thirst that went beyond physical thirst. A thirst she had tried every possible way to quench but life had left her thirsty, and there waiting for her at the well was the Savior of the World.
In Verse Seven Jesus begins the conversation: “Will you give me a drink?”
Jesus said a lot in this one sentence. Jesus was making a statement about her.
“You are worthy to drink after. You are not someone I am afraid to touch. I won’t even go out of my way to avoid you. In fact, I have gone out of my way to have this conversation.”
The woman is shocked He even spoke to her. She knew that the Jews listed Samaritan women just below tax collectors and Samaritan men. She is so surprised by Jesus’ question that she never gives him an answer to his original question. All she can do is ask him why they are even having a conversation at all. There is no doubt that she never even made eye contact once she reached the well. In verse ten Jesus continues the conversation.
“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
The woman’s response to Jesus reveals the confusion she was experiencing on the inside. Please do not think of her as being dumb. She was in the presence of Holiness. When someone was in Jesus’ presence they knew there was something different about Him than anyone else. She knew this conversation was about more than just physical water and physical thirst. That is why she brought up Jacob and asked Jesus if He was greater.
Finally, Jesus does something incredibly insensitive. He does something that would get therapists fired. He does something that most people would never put up with. He looks at her and says, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” He reaches right into her most recent wound and rips the scab right off. I bet a thousand different excuses are running through her mind as to why all those marriages didn’t work out, and why she was now living with a man she wasn’t even married to.
The woman does what we do when faced with our sin. She retreated and answered Him: “I have no husband.”
Jesus wasn’t finished: “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
Jesus, suddenly, abruptly, painfully and insensitively put her in touch with her thirst. She had tried everything in her power to quench her thirst. Jesus was saying to her, “life has left you thirsty, hasn’t it?” Jesus had something to offer her, but before she could really receive it she had to own up to the fact that her own attempts to quench her thirst had left her thirsty.
This is the lesson for us as well. There is no amount of stuff. No amount of relationships. No amount of work hours. No amount of sales. No amount of drugs or alcohol. No amount of anything that can quench the spiritual thirst we have in our souls for something more. We can try and try and try, but in the end no amount of our own attempts have the potential to quench the thirst we all have for real significance.
Have you ever used stuff to quench your thirst? How have your own attempts left you thirst?
Portions of this post are excerpts from Andy Stanley’s series Defining Moments available at North Point Resources