“God’s Living Water”
John 4:4-30 (4:10) – March 12, 2023
I am going to Egypt. Yes, next Sunday evening, March 19, I am going to get on an airplane at O’Hare Airport and fly to Istanbul, and then to Cairo. This is going to be a great adventure for me, and a look at a whole new part of the world!
Egypt has – for the most part – a desert or semi-arid climate. Not much water, at all. Very similar to the climate in the Sinai Peninsula, which is where Moses and the people of Israel were during our Scripture reading from Exodus today. Moses and the people of Israel were all really thirsty, and there was hardly any water to be had, out in the wilderness.
This thirsty theme carries over into our Gospel reading from John chapter 4, where the Rabbi Jesus meets a woman from Samaria by the well of the patriarch Jacob. Jesus talks to her about water, and how to take care of her thirst.
God provided water for the people of Israel through Moses. And, Jesus and the woman at the well have the longest conversation recorded in the Gospels. All about water. Do you and I really know about the water that God provides?
What are you thirsty for? What am I thirsty for?
The people of Israel were a grumbling, grousing, stiff-necked group of people. This isn’t just me saying it: this is the record both of many places in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Testament saying it. These thousands and thousands of people needed water that God provided.
Looking at our Gospel reading from John 4, we discover similar features. Here we are in Samaria, which was mostly a semi-arid climate. Meaning, there was some water available, but only in a few areas. The Samaritans also needed water for their daily needs. We can see they needed the water God provided, for themselves as well as for their animals and crops.
How about this woman, in particular? A Samaritan woman, having contact with a Jewish man, and a Rabbi, on top of that. Added to which, she was a divorcee. Not once, not twice, but divorced a bunch of times. This woman did not come to the well early in the day, with the other women of the town. No, this woman came to the well with her water pot at noon. An odd time to draw water, when the well most probably would be deserted. This certainly was an unexpected encounter for this woman at the well.
As I think about the griping, grousing people of Israel in the book of Exodus, I also think of being a mom. I would have been scared for my children. Since the whole group of thousands of people was out in the Sinai wilderness, there was not much water to be had. At all. What would I do for my children’s thirst? How would I cook and take care of my family? And, it wasn’t just a few families who were worried. No, multiply that fear and worry by every family in that tribal group. That’s a whole lot of anxious, worried and even angry people!
The Samaritans from John 4 had some stability and some water in their area, but I am sure they needed to be careful. Jacob’s well was far from the center of town, and the women needed to walk some distance to the well to draw water. Water they needed for drinking, cooking, and all the rest of their daily needs.
As the Rabbi Jesus and the woman at the Samaritan well had their conversation together, “It is surely fitting that Jesus speaks of himself as the source of water that eternally quenches thirst, for that is precisely the gift of God for us.”  Jesus knew what would solve the thirst problem for this woman, and for all the Samaritans in her village.
Tell me, what are you thirsty for? What am I thirsty for?
The Samaritans were only half-Jewish and were a minority in the majority-Jewish Palestine. At the time of Jesus, the full-blooded Jews discriminated against them, some even hated them. Except, this kind of minority attitude was nothing new to the Jews.
Remember back in the beginning of Exodus? When the Jews were slaves for centuries? They were a minority people-group in Egypt. After they came out of Egypt and were free, the Lord gave them strict injunctions. A number of times in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, certainly, not to mention repeated in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Testament. In Leviticus 19: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
It’s clear, over and over in the Biblical record. God provides living water to Jews and non-Jews, alike! I agree with Pastor Janet Hunt in her article on this encounter in John 4, where she says “I’m not certain the woman was necessarily ostracized from the rest of her community. In fact, having been married five times, she was likely at least tangentially related to a whole lot of people. When she returned to her city with her invitation to “come and see,” they did.” What’s more, “Jesus made himself vulnerable by agreeing to be [the Samaritans’] guest and in the resulting deepening of relationship, they were able to receive for themselves this marvelous gift of faith.” 
Just as God provided living water to the people of Israel countless times in the wilderness, just as God provided living water to the woman at the well and all the people in the town in Samaria, God provides living water to us, each day. Receive this free gift of living water. Receive this gift of faith. God is holding it out to us all. Amen.
(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!