[Oct 14]--Encounter At The Well

John 4:1-14

Both chapters three and four are devoted to one-on-one encounters with Christ, but the latter is much more detailed than the former. We start with some background as to why our Lord was going through Samaria. The Pharisees heard that a lot of people were getting baptized in the name of Jesus, and this brought their negative attention. He knew that if he stayed so close to them, it would provoke a premature confrontation and an attempt to arrest him. His time for that had not yet come, so he retreated back to Galilee, his own native area.

I won’t go too much into detail about the history of the Samaritans, since we dealt with that back in May. If you remember that the Jews hated the Samaritans as half-breed apostates and the hatred was quite mutual, you know the really vital background.

Now Jesus “had” to go through Samaria. Why? We know that it was more convenient to go through Samaria on the way to where he was going, but did he “have” to go for this reason? Of course not. Let’s remember, he’s God. He can go anywhere he wishes in the blink of an eye. There’s only one reason why he would “have” to do anything. He wasn't constrained by geographical consideration, nor by distances, or by any human timetable. He was constrained by only one thing: The Father’s plan. If the Father had told him to make a detour to the moon, he’d do it.

As we’ve mentioned before in May, our Lord couldn't possibly have cared less about the racial prejudice (on both sides). The Father had sent him on a mission, and that was all he cared about. You might also want to know that he was breaking more taboos by just opening his mouth. Jewish men, especially Rabbis or other religious leaders, didn't speak with non-relative women in public. Especially women who were sexually immoral. But he casually asked her for a drink of water.

She was obviously shocked by his boldness, and brought up the old racial barrier objection. The Lord simply ignored her first reaction and offered her “living water,” of course without expanding on his meaning. This is a wonderful tool for opening up a conversation about the Good News, by the way. Simply find some common object or situation and make an observation about it that would pique a person’s interest. For example, when I participated in Beach Reach several years ago, we used to offer free pancake breakfasts and van rides to partiers on Padre Island during Spring Break. I would start up conversations with people who were riding with us on the vans, make sure they knew about the breakfast, and then casually ask them “Oh, has anybody told you about the free gift we’re offering?” That would get their attention, and I'd use that as a springboard for the Good News.

As with Nicodemus, we see the theme of misunderstanding: Jesus makes a statement about spiritual reality, and his listener thinks only in terms of the physical realm. She challenges him on his authority, because to her Jacob’s well was far greater than any source of water he could provide.

Au contraire! The water that could come out of the well could only quench thirst for a short time, but his “living water” would quench it forever and permanently. On a side note, this is good evidence for “eternal security,” the teaching that a Christian can’t really lose his salvation once he’s redeemed. This “water” only has to be consumed once, and the action needs no repetition. This can’t refer to our fellowship with him, since that requires constant effort on our part. If I don’t spend my time alone with my Savior, I get “thirsty” for him really quickly, just like the Psalmist. So if he isn’t referring to our salvation and he isn’t referring to our fellowship with him, what is he referring to?

But let’s not get so far into theological controversies that we miss the main point: This is a wonderful promise from our Lord. Imbibing this world and trying to quench our spiritual thirst with its trinkets is like trying to quench physical thirst with salt water. But thank the Lord, once we’ve taken him into ourselves, and made his life ours, we'll never thirst again! In fact, he'll plant within us a never-ending “well-spring.” We won’t have to find anything we need anywhere else.

Lord Jesus, I want to follow your example. I want to accept no other considerations besides the Father’s plan. Make me like you, please.

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