Finding Refreshment – Woman at the Well

August 12, 2018 — Rev. Paula Norbert


So today, we hear this long, but really wonderful story of Jesus, who himself has become thirsty in the noonday sun, after traveling from Jerusalem in the south to Gaililee in the north.  He and his disciples take the quickest route, through Samaria, and we hear that Jesus is tired and thirsty and so he goes to sit by Jacob’s Well while the others go on to buy food.  Let us pray, Gracious God, as we thirst to deepen our faith in you, be with us this day and open our hearts to your words and the gift of your living water in our lives.  Amen.

When was the last time you were truly thirsty?  Not just a little thirsty and wanting a drink but a time when you had not had enough to drink in far too long and your body was aching for something to drink?  This is what we’re invited to think about today, the reality of true thirst in a world where sadly there are too many places where people do not have access to enough clean drinking water, and as we know, we have to have water to survive.  We can go for a longer period without eating, but our bodies become very sick when we become dehydrated.  It’s what we need for life, right?  Water is life.

Some of you may know that  my husband Rich spent time in the Peace Corps where he  helped a village to construct a deep well to provide clean water for that community in a very dry part of Senegal.  That well was a gathering place for the village and people knew that it was meant to be shared.  Folks would come to fill their jugs in the morning, but if you were delayed, you needed to wait for the water table to replenish itself.  It provided clean, sweet drinking water for cooking and to sustain them each day in the hot weather.

We read in John’s Gospel of the well where Jesus meets the Samaritan woman, who has come to get water long after many others in the village were long gone.  The conversation they share is the longest that Jesus has with any one person in the Bible, but first he asks for a drink of water.

Certainly, she would have been shocked by this,  because Jesus is breaking three traditional customs.  First,  he is speaking to  a woman; second she is a Samaritan woman, a group that the Jews would not have been friendly to, and finally, he asks her to get him a drink of water which would have made him unclean from drinking from her cup, according to the customs of that day.  He breaks all the rules and while he sits and enjoys the drink, they engage in conversation.  He tells her that he can share a living water such that she would never be thirsty again.  She is confused when she hears this, but she understands him literally and says that of course, she would love to be able to find drink which would allow her never to be thirsty again.

She also shares that she believes in the coming of the Messiah, and here Jesus reveals his identity when he says, “I who speak to you, am he.”

This encounter is so powerful for her that she sets aside her jug of water and returns to share the good news, that she has in fact met the long awaited one, the Messiah.  She will be the first person in all of the New Testament who proclaims Jesus as the Messiah.  She has a very important role, even though we never learned her name. When she runs back to town to tell everyone the good news, the people are so inspired that they go to Jesus and beg him to stay with them, and he does; he remains for two days there sharing the stories of the Kingdom of God.

I believe that probably what most impressed this woman was the fact that this compassionate man took the time to speak with her, to show her respect, to listen to her story and to spend time with her.  It’s a powerful thing when people take the time to really listen to our stories, the stories of our lives, and to demonstrate that we are of value, that we deserve respect, in the very act of taking the time to sit and listen.  First and foremost, this is what Jesus does; he speaks to her and he listens to her.  Then, setting aside the rules and customs of the day, he asks her to share water with him, to allow him, a very holy man, to drink from her cup.  That must have meant a great deal to her such that when he says that he can offer living water, she is open to his words, and she can see the truth in them, because she has experienced his kindness and mercy.  She feels comfortable enough to say that she is a believer and that she is awaiting the Messiah, literally the ‘long awaited One.”  So when he reveals that he is in fact the One, she is overcome and runs back to tell others the Good News.  And happily, the people of the village believe her and invite him to stay longer with them.

We know that water is indeed essential for life; it is the very foundation for survival.  We know too as people that we long for so much more, that we yearn for companionship and respect; we yearn for deeper meaning and we yearn for a deeper faith as we live in hope for better days ahead.  All of this Jesus offers to this woman and he offers this to us.

I’ll close with an excerpt from a piece called, When Thirst Parches Your Soul   (Exodus 17:1-7) by Valerie Bridgeman Davis…

When the thirst of life parches your soul, desperation sets in. It sets in hard,   And you don’t remember who God is or what God has done. That’s just the truth. It makes the past struggles seem not so bad. Church may become a wilderness. Relationships become wastelands. It all gets big.

It’s hard to trust who God is or what God has done. That’s just the truth. And still, God provides: even when you’re moaning and complaining; even when you’re parched and pleading; even when your faith is a faint whisper from the past. God still provides.   Look up; there’s a rock gushing with refreshment for you somewhere in your life. Our past only sounds good because you can’t see the future. There is a rock gushing somewhere in your life. That’s just the truth. Look for it.”