A woman drinking water from a water bottle.

You can read the Gospel of John, chapter 4, verses 5-42 here. We all are thirsting for God.


My dad was 6’2” tall, thin, with coal-black hair. My mom had a terrific smile, beautiful hazel eyes, and a very interesting sense of humor. They both oozed kindness and both were extremely shy. They met as teenagers when they worked in the same factory making shirts. My mom worked the sewing line and my dad was the boy who brought supplies to her. So shy, yet so interested! My dad enlisted the help of a friend who found out for him that, yes, she was interested. And on that first date, as those teenagers sat there drinking their milkshakes, cupid’s arrow found its mark.

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Barb and I met while we were students in seminary. We knew each other from campus and had a lot of shared friends.  Our first date was at The Broken Drum brewery in San Rafael, California. As they sat there half the age they are now drinking some bubbles, cupid’s arrow found its mark.

Work. School. Fun outings with friends or co-workers. Internet apps. These are places we meet others and make life-long relationships. Sometimes you are just living life and sometimes in those places, you find love and you want to drink it all in.

Wells were meeting places in biblical times. Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac, his wife was found at a well. A generation later, Jacob, who is mentioned in our text, met his future wife, Rachel, at a well. 

The woman in our text is living her life and she leaves the well having found profound love. We all have a well inside of us and it is there we meet the God of love and our thirst for God is quenched. Click here to read about Mary’s joy in God.

The Woman Goes to the Well

Maybe life had been tough on her. She has had five husbands. Some read into this some kind of scandal but keep in mind that neither the author nor Jesus draw any negative conclusion from this fact. 

At that time, a woman could not initiate a divorce. So if she did experience divorce, that would not have been of her own choosing. Or, maybe her husbands have all passed away. Or, maybe it was a mixture. Nevertheless, being an unwed female at that time put her in an economically vulnerable position.

Whatever the case may be, this woman has experienced pain and loss and the scary parts of starting over again. For her, love is a tough subject and so is God.

Samaritans were somewhat similar to the Jewish people. However, for centuries each group looked down on the other as culturally and religiously inferior. This led to stoking hatred and armed conflict. Often, they would even avoid walking through each other’s territory. So high was the disgust among some of them that they would not use the same instrument or tools as the others. 

Jesus is traveling back to Jerusalem and passing through the Samaritan territory. Risky choice. He speaks to her, which is surprising from her perspective. She is also surprised that he would ask to drink from the same cup as her.

Jesus says to her if you knew the gift of God (salvation, deep joy, never-ending love) you’d ask me to give you a drink of that living water. “Living” water is water that moves. A pond’s water doesn’t flow. It sits. An underwater spring that feeds this well is moving and never-ending. It’s dependable and has been that way for centuries.

Jesus Explains the Two Thirsts

Jesus uses the symbol of water to talk about the two thirsts, both of which the woman is well acquainted with, right?

The first thirst is physical. When we get hot and need to hydrate, our mouths get dry and all we can think about is a drink of water. And when we gulp that cold water down, we can feel that coolness all the way down to our stomach. It’s refreshing, and lifts our mood. It is good and we are grateful, but we will need another drink in just a few hours.

The second thirst is inside of us but has nothing to do with our physical body because it pertains to our soul. We thirst and long for peace, acceptance, love, and belonging. We thirst for grace and we know when it is lacking and when we need to take more of it in.

The Well Within and our Thirsting for God

We all have a well inside of us and that is where we meet the God of love. Often, though, we look for almost anything other than God to fill that well. We think other things can sustain us.

This well within, our soul, can’t be filled with possessions, people, or any other temporal thing. We try to fill that well and meet that need by our purchasing power, by over-focusing on other people, or by becoming so active so that we do not have to feel or think about what’s going on inside of us. Or, we will numb ourselves with certain habits.

Jesus points to an important truth—we need something internal and eternal that will fill up all parts of our life, causing contentment, love, and peace. This comes about by relating to God with that deeper part of yourself.

Tasting the Water

The woman responds to Jesus with, “Give me this water!” Jesus responds by asking her to bring her husband to the well.

I’m not sure why Jesus does this. This could be a culturally appropriate thing to do. The husband is the head of the household and would make decisions about religion. 

Nevertheless, she tells him the truth. I don’t have a husband, although she is living with him. They have not had a ceremony. Jesus reveals to her that he knows more about her than she thinks.

This causes her to flip to a default defense. Did you notice that? She went into the culture and religious war defense which is a great way to kill a conversation and avoid having a mature relationship.  

By the way, when someone disagrees with you, you probably have a default defense. It might not be as obvious as this woman’s but you have it. It is a way to avoid real talk and a mature relationship. Jesus’ love persists and that is what love does. 

Jesus says, “Well, God is a spirit so God is not boxed into one location. God is a spirit and those who worship God do so in spirit and truth.” 

Okay, the truth would be that God is revealed through creation, through the written words of Scripture, and through Jesus Christ. The Spirit would be that it takes up your whole self and not just a part of yourself.

Refreshed by Love in the Presence of Christ

This response melts her defenses. Jesus rises above her default defense and opens her eyes to this truth: God’s love is not limited by space or time. 

However, if we limit our openness to God’s nosy, invasive, beautiful love, we will find and experience deep discontent. That is because we are not allowing our souls to drink deeply.

Will you be open to such a radical love or will you find ways to avoid it?

The Satisfaction of God

Just like this woman is deeply satisfied in the love of God that quenches the thirst of her soul, so too Jesus Christ finds satisfaction in giving love to her. 

This cycle of love stirs in her community, so much so that they ask Jesus to stay. And the people love and enjoy being with Jesus. They said, hey, we no longer believe because of your testimony, but we experience this for ourselves and we love it. We love being with Jesus; he feeds us and quenches our thirst for God.

“We know he is the savior of the world,” as opposed to God only being for a select group.

Jesus tells the disciples that he’s full. Explain the enduring, everlasting, and dependable love of God brings his heart great contentment. May our stories about what God’s love means to us inspire such responses!

There is a song in the middle of the bible (Psalm 16) in which the singer puts words to this kind of reaction. The singer sings, “You, God, make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fulness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

The joy of the Lord, the joy of salvation can bubble up from within and give us happiness, joy, and contentment all our life long. Nothing else can do that.

Another writer says, “My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.”

Meet with the Lord at the well of your heart. 

Feel your need and your desire for meaning, love, and a kind of calm, persistent presence that doesn’t withdraw when you’ve had a bad day. Enjoy the pleasure that is found in the presence of Christ.

May it be so with us!

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