In his conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus made a bold claim that has echoed through the centuries; an invitation to every human being. He said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water, welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:13-14). Those words bear a striking similarity to God’s indictment of the people of Judah through the prophet Jeremiah: “My people…have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13).
As Jeremiah points out, the problem that plagues, not just ancient Judah, but all humanity, is that they have forsaken God who is the source of living water, and who is life itself. Rather than turning to him as the only one who can really quench our thirst, we have instead dug our own wells, hoping that what they produce will satisfy us, but they never can. We turn to the wells of success, power, recognition, entertainment and pleasure, hoping to find personal fulfillment, but always coming up short. What we are thirsty for is God, and nothing else will do.
It was not by accident, then, that it was by such a well, dug by human hands, that Jesus made his offer to the Samaritan woman. Jacob’s well could never provide what she was really thirsty for, and the other wells she had dug in her life, including five husbands and her current live-in lover, had also come up dry. The solution to her need was to return to the God she, along with the rest of humanity, had forsaken; the fountain of living waters who was standing right in front of her, and who alone could quench her thirst because he is the living God.
What are the wells you have dug in your life? Are you hoping to find personal wholeness in the relationships you build, the things you own, the things you can do, or your hopes for the future? I find myself trying to draw life-giving water from these kinds of wells on an almost daily basis, and I recognize that I need to turn from those wells again and again, and respond to Jesus’ invitation, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.”
It is an amazing thing that, even though we often turn to other wells, in his steadfast love Jesus patiently and persistently invites us back to himself, so that he can satisfy our thirst. What is even more amazing is that he is thirsty for us, too. It was Jesus who initiated the conversation with the Samaritan woman. He asked her for a drink because he was thirsty for her, just as he is thirsty for each one of us!
Reflecting on this account in the section on prayer, the Catholic Catechism points out, “the wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts [for us,] that we may thirst for him” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 2560).
It is an incredibly humbling thing to consider that the creator and king of the universe is “thirsty” for us. He needs nothing, there is nothing we can provide him that will add anything to who he is, or fulfill him or complete him in any way.
Yet, the living God has created us for himself, and he has “set his affections on [us]” (Dt. 7:7; 10:15). Though we can offer him nothing, he has chosen to love us and, in that love, he thirsts for fellowship with us! His desire is so great that, though we had forsaken him, he would not let our rejection be the last word. Instead, in Christ he laid down his own life on the cross to open the way into his presence (Heb. 10:20) that we might have fellowship with him (Jn. 14:20; 1 Jn. 1:3)!
Jesus’ invitation still stands: “I will give you living water.”
“Therefore,” in the words of the writer to the Hebrews, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22), and let us drink deeply from the eternal fountain of living water and find our satisfaction in him.
Pastor JonJanuary 1, 2019