The Gospel of John: a commentary & meditation 
“Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst”

Scripture: John 4:1-42

Meditation: Do you allow any barriers to distance yourself from the Lord and his will for your life?  Jesus overcame the barriers of prejudice, sin, and misunderstanding with the truth of God’s word and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Jews and Samaritans had been divided for centuries. They had no dealings with one another, avoiding all social contact, even trade, and inter-marriage.  If their paths crossed it would not be unusual for hostility to break out. When Jesus passed through Samaria he did the unthinkable.  He conversed with a Samaritan, thus risking ritual impurity and scorn from his fellow Jews. He also did something no strict Rabbi would dare to do in public without loss to his reputation.  He greeted a woman and spoke openly with her.  Not only was she a woman, but a notorious adulteress.  No decent Jew would even think of being seen with such a woman, let alone exchanging a word with her!

Why did Jesus meet alone with this Samaritan woman? Women normally gathered at the town well in the early hours of the morning while it was still cool.  This would be a customary time for social contact and exchange of news.  The fact that this notorious woman chose the midday hour to go out in public when the heat is greatest, shows her estrangement from her own community. Jesus broke through the barriers of nationality and orthodox Jewish custom.  He showed the universality of the gospel.  No one is barred from the love of God and the good news of salvation. There is only one thing that can keep us from God and his redeeming love — our stubborn pride and wilful rebellion.

What is the point of Jesus’ exchange with the woman about water? Water in the arid land was scarce.  Jacob’s well was located in a strategic fork of the road between Samaria and Galilee.  One can live without food for several days, but not without water.  Water is a source of life and growth for all living things.  When rain came to the desert, the water transformed the wasteland into a fertile field. The kind of water which Jesus spoke about was living, running water.  Fresh water from a cool running stream was always preferred to the still water one might find in a pond or well.  Living water was also a symbol for the Jew of thirst of the soul for God. The water which Jesus spoke of symbolized the Holy Spirit and his work of recreating us in God’s image and sustaining in us the new life which comes from God. The life which the Holy Spirit produces in us makes us a new creation in Jesus Christ.  Do you thirst for God and for the life of the Holy Spirit within you?

Hippolytus, a second century Christian writer, explains the significance of the Holy Spirit’s work in us: “This is the water of the Spirit: It refreshes paradise, enriches the earth, gives life to living things.  It is the water of Christ’s baptism; it is our life.  If you go with faith to this renewing fountain, you renounce Satan your enemy and confess Christ your God.  You cease to be a slave and become an adopted son; you come forth radiant as the sun and brilliant with justice; you come forth a son of God and fellow-heir with Christ.” (From a sermon, On the Epiphany)

Basil the Great (c. 330-379) speaks in a similar manner: “The Spirit restores paradise to us and the way to heaven and adoption as children of God; he instills confidence that we may call God truly Father and grants us the grace of Christ to be children of the light and to enjoy eternal glory.  In a word, he bestows the fullness of blessings in this world and the next; for we may contemplate now in the mirror of faith the promised things we shall someday enjoy.  If this is the foretaste, what must the reality be?  If these are the first fruits, what must be the harvest?” (From the treatise, The Holy Spirit)

“Lord, my soul thirsts for you.  Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may always find joy in your presence and take delight in doing your will.”

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(c) 2001 Don Schwager