It was the summer of 2017 when I travelled to Nicaragua for humanitarian efforts. The region was hot and, in order to balance the pace of the day, I'd drink bottles of water to quench my thirst. At times I'd find shade for relief and couldn't wait to head back to our lodgings for a nice cold shower for relief from the humidity. Each day we worked hard, drank our water and slept deeply each evening.
In Samaria of Israel, it's similar - with cool mornings and the afternoons excruciatingly hot. In John 4, it's here that a Samaritan woman meets Jesus. She's biracial, not fully Jewish, so because of her mixed race and private life, she was treated as an outcast. Jews did not interact with Samaritans, nor ever walked through Samaria for any reason. Here, Jesus bypassed cultural prejudices and asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of her water.
Jesus said, "If you only knew the free gift of God and who it is that is asking you for water, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!” (John 4:7-15 MSG)
Ever had an uncomfortable conversation? In a networking atmosphere, I recalled a time when a gentleman and I started to converse. At first, it was lighthearted but in mid -conversation something changed, it went a little deeper than I anticipated. It was uncomfortable, as he asked many probing questions, to the degree where I just wanted to walk away. That's Jesus throughout this conversation with the Samaritan woman. He's in the wrong neighborhood, asks the Samaritan woman for a drink of her water, and He won't leave her alone. He just keeps talking! It unravels her, leading to several things:
Jesus offers water from another source.
Because she was “outcast,” the Samaritan woman rearranged her schedule to come at the most inconvenient time to reach her water source. She'd avoid people as she anonymously filled her supply of water from the well. Have you ever experienced that level of thirst? In the same manner, we might have rearranged our lives to accommodate private parts of our world. Maybe we're thirsting for significance, opportunity, or relationships? It could be that we're thirsty for affection; desiring anyone to heal our loneliness. It's hard to admit what used to satisfy is no longer fulfilling. Maybe we're in need of a different water source.
He challenges her mask of pretense. (John 4:16-17)
Jesus sits near her well and goes where no other man has gone before; a place of honest conversation. He knows her water source and efforts are not working. Sometimes we, too, can avoid God, exuding a persona as if we have it together, but in actuality we are really hiding behind man-made masks of safety. When we encounter Jesus, He dives right into the necessary and honest conversations for our good. Here, the composed Samaritan woman tries to avoid Jesus' questions and diverts the focus away from her.
Jesus is not like everyone else. (John 4:25-30)
The Samaritan woman leaves everything - her jar and the old water source - to go back into town and bring others to see about a man who claims He's Messiah. Can you imagine a complete stranger exposing the details of your personal private "email?” And now He claims that He is the Messiah after a deep conversation? Maybe what's so compelling about this scenario is that a little part of us knows what it's like to be the Samaritan woman. To have an interaction where it stops us mid-journey and leaves us vulnerable. In her vulnerability, Jesus never paraded her weakness, but drew her closer to Him. Ultimately, He revealed that He's the solution to her thirst problem.
Like the Samaritan woman, we can have our emotions on lockdown, have our walls up in the name of strength, our masks in place to avoid honest interactions for the sake of getting our "water" from the same old source. But when we encounter Jesus, He changes the water game. The Samaritan woman was once thirsty and now seeks to satisfy this thirst through a man who claims that He is Messiah, who can satisfy it completely. We who were once thirsty can now be satisfied.
It's true, one encounter with Jesus changes everything.
Dianna Nepstad pastors Fellowship Church in Antioch, California with her husband Shaun Nepstad. She is creative director, Propel chapter leader and helps facilitate community in Fellowship. She enjoys life in the Bay Area with her husband, Shaun, and their four happy teenage daughters. You can learn more about Dianna by visiting thefellowshipchurch.com