In order to make the journey north Jesus needed to pass through Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. When the northern kingdom fell to Assyria hundreds of years previously a large number of her people were deported and replaced by foreigners. Over the years the remaining Israelites intermarried with these newcomers and subsequently the Jews in Judea despised the people of the region. Around 400BC the Samaritans constructed a temple on Mount Gerizim that fuelled the rivalry with their southern neighbours.
The fact that the Samaritan woman was at the well at midday in the most severe heat may have been due to her status as an adulteress and her desire to avoid the other women of the town. In speaking to this Samaritan woman alone Jesus breaks several taboos at once: he speaks to a Samaritan, he speaks to a woman and he speaks to an adulteress.
In first asking for a drink and then claiming that he can provide living water, Jesus once again uses a natural phenomenon to point towards a greater spiritual reality. In the prophetic books of the OT water speaks of God’s grace, his cleansing from sin and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. All these themes are relevant here in Jesus’ dealings with this woman.
Jesus’ words, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (vv. 13&14), draws the distinction between the temporary satisfaction of a natural thirst brought by the water drunk from the well and the living water given by him which is the supernatural gift of eternal life. Jesus’ offer of spiritual salvation and satisfaction represents the fulfilment of various OT promises including Isaiah 12:3 and Isaiah 55:1-3.
The woman gets caught up in the different centres of worship for Jews and Samaritans (vv. 19&20), before Jesus tells her that the place of worship is irrelevant because God is looking for people to worship “in the Spirit and in truth” (v. 23). In other words, what counts with God is not the physical edifice of a special building but actually human hearts being devoted to him and their lives lived out as an act of worship according to the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit. Let’s pray that we might be a New Covenant people who know the reality of the Spirit’s presence as living water in all we do today even enabling us to share our story with others like this woman did.
This will be the last five days of our Thought for the Day readings. I hope you have found them beneficial. I would like to thank Mel for all her creative work in generating the prayer ideas and the worship links for nearly four months to compliment what I have written. If you would appreciate other resources to help you with the Bible I recommend Phil Moore’s Straight to the Heart series which offer accessible commentary on different biblical books and Nicky Gumbel’s, The Bible in a Year, an online resource.
Prayer: OK, so this is a little unusual, but God gave us our senses, so, click on this LINK which will take you to a YouTube clip of rain. As you listen pray that the rain of God’s Spirit would pour down on you, on us as a people, and on our neighbourhood. Pray that there would be a spiritual awakening in response to Holy Spirit to those who are not yet aware of him, for those who are dry in their faith that they would be refreshed and reinvigorated, and that we would be filled to overflowing with the fullness of Holy Spirit to serve him in every aspect of our lives. May his rain our down on this parched and thirsty land!
Song: Spirit Fall