When Your Heart is Thirsty and You Don't Know It
Two strangers met beside a well on a hot afternoon in Samaria. One was a woman. The other was a man. We don’t know the woman’s name. The man’s name was Jesus. Their brief conversation changed her life.The conversation Jesus had with the woman at the well is the longest recorded conversation anyone ever had with Jesus. It is longer than any recorded conversation with any of his disciples. When our unnamed woman appeared with clay jar in hand, Jesus made a simple request: "Will you give me a drink?" (John 4:7). Sounds reasonable to us. But not to first century Jews, and for these reasons: (1) Jews weren't supposed to speak to Samaritans. (2) Men weren't permitted to address women without their husbands present. And (3) rabbis had no business speaking to shady ladies such as this one.
Jesus was willing to overlook these cultural prohibitions, but the woman at the well wasn't. "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman," she reminded him. "How can you ask me for a drink?" (John 4:9). She was thirsty for something that would satisfy the deep longings of her heart, but she had no idea what it was. But of course Jesus knew, so he proceeded to engage the woman in conversation. "If you knew the gift of God …" (John 4:10). If. Now that’s a tantalizing invitation. And gift. That’s more than tantalizing. That’s irresistible. Instead of insisting she pour him a drink, the Lord offered her "living water" (John 4:10). Water from the ground was common, but living water? What was that? Jesus sure got her attention with that.
A little later in the conversation, Jesus told her, "Go, call your husband and come back" (John 4:16). Not an odd request, since women couldn't converse alone with a man in a public place. But Jesus' request was more about uncovering truth than about following society's rules. When she confessed, "I have no husband" (John 4:17), Jesus affirmed her answer, then matter of factly exposed her sin: "The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband" (John 4:18).
The jig was up. Jesus knew what was in her heart—the sin as well as the emptiness. So, did the woman fess up and admit Jesus could see right through her? Nope. She changed the subject. And what did she change the subject to? Religion. It seemed safer to talk about religion than to discuss the real matters of her heart. It happens all the time. When I bring spiritual matters into a conversation with someone who does not know the Lord, it isn’t uncommon for that person to ask evasive questions like, “Where did Cain get his wife”, or “Why is there so much suffering in the world?”
After engaging Jesus in matters of religion for a while, the woman at the well did her best to shut Jesus down. "When [the Messiah] comes, he will explain everything to us" (John 4:25). But instead of nodding his head in agreement, Jesus said something that left her frozen in her tracks: "I who speak to you am he" (John 4:26). In the original language, it reads more like this: “The one who speaks to you, I AM.” “I AM” was the name by which God revealed himself to Moses (Exodus 3:15). By answering the way he did, Jesus is claiming identity with God. Imagine how shocked she must have been to have heard that! But it was not a shock that left the woman at the well paralyzed with fear. Quite the contrary, she was overjoyed. She left her water jar and went back into town to urge her neighbors, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" (John 4:29).
In any century, our response to the Lord is the same. When the Lord exposes our hearts, we confront our true selves, experience God's grace, and share the good news.