Originally posted March 22, 2011, at The Pastor’s Musings. Republished with permission of the author.
When Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman about “living water,” they are standing next to Jacob’s well, a well that had provided God’s people with water for over 1,000 years.
Jesus’ term “living water” can be interpreted in so many ways. Jesus, first asks the woman to give him a drink, which would have required her to dip water from the well with a bucket.
In his continuing dialogue with her, Jesus, tells the Samaritan woman, that she could have asked him for “living water.”
Water, by its very nature, is a source of life. Humans can live for only a few days without water.
Fresh, uncontaminated water, which we in the United States take for granted, is a treasure in other parts of the world. We who have such easy access to clean water, don’t give much thought to how hard it is for many people to obtain it.
In places where water does not come from a faucet inside the house or bottled at the grocery store, people often walk long distances to use a shared well — a well much like the one Jesus stood beside.
When I think of wells, I think of a town in Palestine, not far from Hebron, that I visited on a trip to the Holy Land.
We were taken to the town of At-Tuwani by members of the Christian Peacemakers Team.
This town is served by a single well. Children and adults get their water by dipping it out with a bucket and transferring it to bottles and other containers.
This single source of water in this village has been subjected to contamination in the continuing battle between Palestinian residents and Israeli settlers.
Contaminated water is no longer a source of life but rather a means of death.
Children who must haul water uphill from the village well to their homes understand how precious this living water is. Such children would have understood the Samaritan woman’s amazement that Jesus, who had no bucket, was offering to give her “living water.”
On a metaphorical level, Jesus’ “living water” is the gushing water of eternal life. Only Jesus can give this spiritual water. Only by faith, can believers receive this spring of water, planted deep within themselves by God. As Jesus puts it, this spring of water will “gush up to eternal life.”
With two millennia of Christian experience, we can also look at Jesus’ “living water” as the baptismal water that is the start of new life in Christ.
When water is gushed over us in baptism, we are washed free from sin, the Holy Spirit flows into us, and we are transformed into children of God. As baptized Christians, we live into Jesus’ words of “worshiping God in spirit and truth.”
Lord, may you give us always that “living water” that provides life today and eternal life tomorrow. May we live as your children, grateful for your mercy in giving us this “living water.” Amen
Find a link to Pat Harris’ blog The Pastor’s Musings at Lutheran Blogs.