We live in days of sensitivity regarding sexist attitudes and misogynistic behaviour. One of the surprising and striking things in today’s reading is Jesus’ comfortable relationship with this woman in Samaria. He knows who she is and all about her background.
She is surprised: the social prejudice of the day forbids a man speaking to a strange woman publicly; furthermore, Jews do not associate with Samaritans for fear of defilement (v. 9), but here is Jesus asking to drink from her jar. When His disciples return from buying food, they too are surprised. They do not speak to Jesus, but verse 27 tells us what they are thinking.
Jesus doesn’t hesitate to cross social boundaries to communicate the gospel. No one is off limits! The goodness of Nicodemus does not qualify him for the kingdom of God. This unnamed woman’s badness does not disqualify her from the possibility of entering the kingdom.
The woman has had five husbands and is now living with her de facto sixth (vv. 17-18). She has a reputation, and so comes to the well only when it is too hot for anyone else to be there-the sixth hour (v. 6), or twelve noon. If she came at the usual time for drawing water, at sunrise or sunset, she would have to face gossip from the other women. Twice in this chapter, Jesus is misunderstood-taken literally when He is speaking metaphorically. Just as Nicodemus thought He was talking about another literal birth (John 3:4), the woman thought He was offering an endless supply of water (v. 15) and the disciples thought someone else had brought Him food (v. 33).
Birth, hunger, bread, thirst, sight, and water are all used in John’s gospel metaphorically, to point to a deeper reality. Jesus’ hearers understand Him naturally, on a merely physical level.
The water isn’t easy to reach. The woman knows Jacob had to dig a deep well. So how can Jesus draw water when He does not even have a bucket (vv. 11-12)? Is He greater than Jacob, or just a counterfeit? Of course, Jesus is greater than Jacob and the water He gives is not drawn with a bucket. John makes clear in John 7:37-39 that the water Jesus gives is the Holy Spirit, whose presence in the believer is the essence of eternal life.
In our family home there was an old book of daily devotions that was a great source of blessing to my parents. It was entitled Streams in the Desert, quoting from a promise in Isaiah 35:6. A never-ending source of vital life is yours by faith in Jesus Christ. What Isaiah saw in prospect, Jesus fulfilled in reality. He is the ever-flowing stream of abundant, vital, and eternal life in the desert of the old creation.
Are there areas of your own life that feel dry? Ask God to lead you by ″streams of living water″ today.