Today’s readings are intricately linked! Exodus 17 is the story of water coming from the Rock to quench the thirst of the Israelites. Our Gospel reading from John 4 is a compelling one about “Living Water”. If we will look deeply, we’ll discover that more is going on here than meets the eye. Foreign men, and women at wells meant something very special to the Jewish folk of Jesus’ day. Let’s discover how all of this is connected. Read on…
Read Exodus 17:3-7 – Water from the Rock
As the Israelites begin their Exodus journey from Egypt, they are confronted with a problem. They are thirsty. Sadly, they seem to doubt God. Why had Moses brought them out in the desert to die. How sad that they had so quickly forgotten God’s provision for them. Moses cries out to God. They are about to stone the one God sent to deliver them. In His gracious forbearance, God directs Moses to strike a rock with his staff. Water flowed from the Rock, quenching the thirst of the people. In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul tells us that that Rock that provided spiritual drink for the Israelites was none other than Jesus! As we will see, Jesus is the source of living water – that springs up to eternal life.
Read John 4:5-42 – Living Water from the Rock
In our reading from John 4, we find Jesus involved in a bit of a scandal. Jesus is travelling through Samaria. On his way, he has an encounter that would have caused quite a stir. What we just read was worthy of being on the front page of the Hebrew National Inquirer. It was not that Jesus talked to a woman. He talked to many women on His journeys, without accusations. But, this meeting was different. You see, a Jewish man, meeting a Samaritan woman equals a scandal! Every year when the University of Kentucky plays the University of Louisville, (or pick your favorite rivalry) the media has to pan the crowd to find that special couple. You know – He is in a UK shirt – She is in Cardinal Red. For that one day, they may sit together, but it’s obvious, there is no unity!! That is a tiny glimpse into the division and hatred between Jews and Samaritans!
Why all of the animosity? In 722 BC, the Assyrians defeated the northern Kingdom of Israel. The ten northern tribes of Israel were dispersed into Assyrian territory. They began to intermarry with people from five other nationalities. They also adopted their ways and worshiped their gods. So, despite the fact that Samaritans were half-brothers and sisters to the Jews, their half breed status and their compromise with foreign religions made them totally unacceptable! What’s more, they denied that Jerusalem and the Temple were the rightful place to worship God and make sacrifice to Him. Instead, they set up a place to worship Yahweh on Mount Gerizim. They had their own priests. They had their own version of the Bible, and they had their own temple. in fact, Archaeologists have recently uncovered remains of a temple there. It’s interesting to note, however, that they were looking for the Messiah.
In verse 5 of John 4, Jesus, a Jew, meets a Samaritan woman. She has come to Jacob’s well to draw water. This was a difficult daily task, reserved very often for the women of that day. She comes at noon – the hottest part of the day! As she approaches, what does Jesus do? Most Jewish men would walk away. But, Jesus not only stays put, He requests of her a drink of water! This is a complete and utter scandal!! No Jewish man would do this, unless He is Jesus. You see, this is no “chance” meeting. This is nothing less than a divine appointment.
In verse 27, the disciples had gone away to buy food. When they arrive back at the well, their response to the “scandal” is very instructive. 27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”
How do the disciples respond to Jesus encounter with the Samaritan woman? They marveled!! About what did they marvel? Verse 27 says, “That Jesus was talking with a woman!” Notice that they did not say, “A Samaritan woman!” What else is going on here? Well, to those Jewish men, to see a man and a woman at a well meant a wedding might be coming! A man, plus a woman at a well meant a wedding! Any Jewish person seeing Jesus, and the woman, at the well would have remembered several key Biblical accounts in which a man meets a woman at a well and the result is a betrothal.
In Genesis 24, Abraham’s servant meets Isaac’s future wife Rebecca at a well.
In Genesis 29, Jacob meets his future wife, Rachel at a well.
In Exodus 4, Moses meets his future wife, Zipporah at a well.
In those days, they didn’t go to karaoke night at the oasis to find eligible women. They didn’t log on to Bibleheroesonly.com. Isaac, Jacob and Moses all found their wives at a well! And notice that in each instance the men were in a foreign land when their wives were discovered. Is it possible that Jesus meeting this woman at the well of Jacob is also the scene of a “betrothal”? Let’s remember some critical factors: God considered Himself the husband to Israel. Jesus, came to claim His bride – we speak of it often.
But, who will this bride be? In Ephesians 5, Husbands loving their wives is compared to Jesus loving the Church, and giving up his life for her. In verses 30-31 we read that the church is one with Jesus. Clear marital language. Then, this marital union is spelled out in Ephesians 2:12-14: …remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…
The bride of Christ will be made up of Jews and Gentiles. United to Christ, those who were far off, the Gentiles, are brought near by the blood of Jesus. Jesus, the groom, has made both Jew and Gentile one. He has broken down the bitter divide that separates. Consider the Samaritan Woman. She is both Israelite and Gentile. Could it be that Jesus has come seeking His bride, and this Samaritan woman is the perfect representative of who His bride will be?
Let’s see what else we can learn. In verse 10 of John 4, she has just asked Jesus why a Jew would request a drink from a Samaritan! Jesus says some fascinating things here. First, he refers to the gift of God. In that day, and ours, no groom would be taken seriously with giving the bride a gift. In our day, it is a usually a ring. For instance, Rebecca, Isaac’s wife, received a gold ring and two bracelets. Jesus says, God will give her a gift!
Jesus speaks to her of a gift. Then he offers her “living water.” What is living water? There were several understandings of this. First it could be water from a spring – as opposed to a pond. It would be running water rather than stagnant. This is clearly what she thought Jesus meant. But, Jesus adds, this living water will lead to eternal life! The Song of Solomon and Hebrew tradition reveal another meaning of “living water”. Brides were to bathe on their wedding day in “living water.” This bath was to ensure that the bride was ceremonially pure and prepared for her groom. I am reminded of Revelation 19:7: “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”
Could Jesus’ proposal of living water be the offer of a bridal bath? As his bride, Jesus was offering her a gift. He knew that she needed to be cleansed from her impurity. Starting in verse 16, Jesus confronts her about her lifestyle. How would you feel if a stranger started recounting your sins? Jesus knew all about her. She had been married five times. And the one she was with now was not her husband. As we are beginning to understand, this woman, part Israelite, part Gentile, represents the bride of Christ. She also represents us because of her unfaithfulness and her sin. Like her, all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. What we need is to be washed in the blood of the lamb. We need to be purified in living water – just as she did. But, when does that living water flow over us – and make us pure?
John 7:37-38 helps us understand: On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
For those who believe in Jesus, out of His heart will flow rivers of living water! When Jesus was on the cross, below him was a bowl of wine. Just before He died, his words were eerily similar to those He spoke to the Samaritan woman. He said, “I Thirst.” After he drank some of the wine, He said, “it is finished…”. Jesus bowed His head and gave up His Spirit. A Roman soldier proceeded to pierce Jesus side with a spear. From his side flowed blood and water – living water, springing up to eternal life! What we have is a pierced side which is a cleansing flow!
Just as Jesus said, “Out of [my] heart will flow rivers of living water!” What the Samaritan woman needed, what we need – all of us who would be the bride of Christ – is the precious blood of Jesus, and the living water that flowed from His bleeding side.
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
I don’t know about you, but, when Jesus says, do you want the living water. The only answer to give is, “I Do.”
The rest of this glorious passage reveals the ministry of the Church – the bride of Christ. We are to worship in Spirit and Truth. And we are to go and share our faith. The Samaritan woman left her water pot (no need for that now that she had living water), and went immediately to share the good news. She was acting so much like a young fiance’, wanting everyone to know about her “gift” – living water from the Rock.