By: Dr. Warren Gage
“Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well?” (John 4:12)
The sun was climbing high to midday, bright and hot, as she stepped outside with her empty water jar. There would be no one else at the well at this hour. Most women went to the well to draw water later in the day, enjoying the cool of the evening and the company of their friends. But there was one woman in Sychar who chose to endure the heat of the day and go to the well alone, for in so small a town everyone knew her story. Five men in this village of Samaria had married her, pledging vows of faithfulness, but each time she was left alone. She was so ashamed of her past failures that, with her current companion, she had given up altogether on custom and pretense. What was the point of yet another ceremony? It was easier simply to move in with him. But now, in her shame, she avoided the critical company of the respectable women of the town as best she could. Their judging words, their cruel glares, had become too painful to bear.
Jacob and Jesus
Several days earlier, Jesus had begun a journey north from Judea to Galilee, and the most direct route would be through the land of Samaria. But the Samaritan and Jewish people had become so divided through centuries of racial and religious hatred that Jews refused to associate with Samaritans or even set foot in their land. And so any Jew traveling north from Judea would go far out of his way, following a well-worn path around Samaria in order to avoid any contact with the place and its people. But Jesus did not take the road around, for he was moved by an urgent desire to go directly through Samaria. He had shocked his disciples when he announced the path they would take, but still they traveled with him, wondering what the Master was planning.
The similarities between the lives of Jacob and Jesus collide here. For it was almost midday – the very hour when many centuries ago Rachel had come to the well to meet Jacob for the first time. In fact, Jesus was now sitting by “Jacob’s well,” which Jacob had given to Joseph, Rachel’s son. Jesus’ and Jacob’s stories paralleled so precisely that there was a clear providence bringing him to this well at this noontime. Like Jacob, Jesus left the house of his Father and faced the bitter enmity of his brothers according to the flesh. Jesus, like Jacob, journeyed into a far country in quest of a bride to share in his life and his inheritance.
Jesus knew that his Father had chosen this woman of Samaria to represent the bride to be given to him, and he loved her for the Father’s choice. He loved her for the beauty his own love would create in her. He foresaw the purity his own love would restore to her. And somehow she sensed it, too, and completely forgot the thirst that brought her to the well that day. Leaving behind her water pot, she ran immediately back into the city to tell everyone that the Christ, her hope, her redeemer, had come at last. She had found the man who would remain faithful to her.
We are all that woman
All of us are like the Samaritan woman, with a past of sin that should exclude us from the love of the perfect Son of God. But you are his chosen one! You may carry a burden of unworthiness and shame because of your past, but he chooses you. You may carry the pain of rejection because of religion or race, but he chooses you. He sets his love on us not because of our worthiness, but so that by his love we can be restored to the beauty God intended in us. Our deepest longing, the thirst of our secret souls, is to be chosen and cherished by someone who will remain faithful even when he knows everything about us. Jesus is that one, and we are fully satisfied in the living waters he supplies.
Even more amazing is that God does not wait for us to come to him, for his grace is a pursuing grace. The Samaritan woman was in a far country, part of a race that was rejected by the people of God, and in a downward spiral of bondage to sin. What hope was there for her? Jesus did not wait for her to come to him, for surely she never would. Instead, he sought her out in this far country, for truly he came to seek and save that which was lost.
Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink, but in order to give her the living water he promised, he had to endure the thirst of the cross (John 19:28). Jesus suffered the thirst unto death that we might have his waters of life. He took the wrath our sins deserved and replaced our sins with his own righteousness. And so we are fully satisfied. The water he gives becomes in us a well of water springing up to eternal life (John 4:14). His water comes to satisfy our thirst, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, to refresh and restore us in joy and gladness.
You are the chosen one! You are the Father’s choice of a bride for his son! And so we say, with the Samaritan woman, “Sir, give me this water” (John 4:15). And, like the woman at the well, we leave our water pot behind to run into the city to invite any who will to come to the fountain of flowing, living waters!
Dr. Warren Gage (@Luke_2427) is a Professor of Old Testament at Knox Theological Seminary (@KnoxSeminary)
Chris Barber (@Rebrabc) – Attorney at May, Meacham & Davell, P.A. & Graduate of Knox Theological Seminary