Images of the Savior (8 - His Discourse with the Woman at the Well)
We may only begin to glimpse the surpassing greatness of our Savior when we recognize that every good and satisfying gift bestowed upon us by the Father of Lights (James 1:17) is but a taste and foreshadow of the all-good and all-satisfying gift of Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus came to make all things new, to fulfill every type and promise of the good things stored up for us by the bountiful provision of our heavenly Father, to replace the old shadows with the true Substance of blessing â€“ himself alone, our God come down to take on human flesh and dwell among his people. Christ came to lavish upon us the true wine of wedded bliss. He came to be lifted up as the serpent in the wilderness, thereby providing true absolution from sin and guilt. And in his discourse with the Samaritan woman, we recognize that he came to provide yet more necessary and thirst-quenching blessings for this hopeless world of sinners; he came to pour out upon us in abundant measure the true water which springs up to everlasting life.
How necessary a blessing is the life-giving water which it has pleased the Lord to shower faithfully upon the earth! What is more to be desired in a thirsty soul than wells of living water? What greater gift could God bestow upon the parched inhabitants of the barren wilderness than springs of life? How satisfying to the thirsty man, and how essential to all of God's creatures! It is surely most fitting, then, that Christ offers to all men everywhere the necessary substance of eternal life under the figure of this most necessary of all physical blessings. "If any man thirst," proclaims our blessed Savior, "let him come unto me, and drink" (John 7:37).
It is especially fitting that Christ employed this figure of water, necessary to every creature upon earth, in his discourse with the Samaritan woman. It is no matter that she was not an Israelite, as was Nicodemus, with whom Christ spoke before her. All mankind, whether male or female, whether Jew or Samaritan or Gentile, stands in desperate need of Christ. The most revered teachers of the nation of Israel and the most despised outcasts of the hated race of the Samaritans alike must turn to Christ alone if they would be acceptable to God, enter the long-awaited kingdom, or taste the fruits of eternal life. We must learn this lesson well as we examine this gospel account. Spirit of God, open our eyes!
Let us consider how the occasion for this blessed discourse of our Savior came about. As our sympathetic high priest, it was most appropriate that Christ should be well-acquainted with all of the weaknesses accompanying our frail human flesh (Hebrews 2:17-18). That this was indeed the case is made manifest at the outset of our story; for Jesus, in the course of his journey, became both weary and thirsty, and was therefore in a condition suitable to address his request for water to this woman, in startling contradiction to the universally accepted prohibition against having any dealings, as a Jewish man, with any Samaritan, let alone a woman of the Samaritans (John 4:9). However, as the conversation would soon reveal, Christ's ultimate purpose was not to satisfy the demands of his own body, but rather to offer to this destitute woman the true water of eternal life.
In response to the amazement of the Samaritan woman at this unexpected address, Jesus makes clear the purpose of his question. It was not because he had any desperate need of water that he had framed this request, but rather to apprise her of the fact that she, desperately thirsty as she was in her spirit, ought to be requesting from him the true water of life. If she would but ask, the Savior informed her, he would give her such living waters that, if she would but taste them, she would never thirst again.
How crass and earthly is our conception of the blessings of life! Thus the Samaritan woman, yet blind to the true benefits of life and godliness, understood him to be talking of mere physical water, that should perpetually quench mere physical thirst. We may be grateful indeed that our Savior is so ready to bear with our weak and faulty understanding! Hence, in his forbearance, he explained to the woman the true nature of the waters which he alone could give. These living waters, which correspond to the waters of Jacob's well as the portrait corresponds to its living subject, beget and sustain a spiritual life which will grow and thrive long after the physical body has returned to dust. We may learn from the words of Jesus the following characteristics of this true water of life.
First, these living waters are constant and illimitable. The water of this world flows one day, but in a moment the drought comes and dries up its source. The water which Jesus has to offer, on the other hand, springs up forever into eternal life. When Moses struck the rock in the wilderness, it poured forth a bountiful and unceasing supply of water (Exodus 17:4-6). That Rock which followed the Israelites in the desert, ever providing them with the necessary means of life, was none other than Christ (I Corinthians 10:4). He alone, then as now, nourishes and sustains in never-ending measure the spiritual life of his people.
Furthermore, these living waters are the cause for great joy and satisfaction. How incriminating is the indictment against us sinners and rebels that we "have committed two evils; [we] have forsaken [Christ] the fountain of living waters, and hewed [us] out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13)! How blind and foolish a race we are to search for our joy and life and salvation in that which can never satisfy, when God alone holds forth everything we need for everlasting delight in the fellowship with himself that he has created us to enjoy. All of our sin has this at its root, that we are seeking our water from broken cisterns instead of from the Fountain of living waters. How merciful is our Savior, that he should condescend to inform us again of the true Fount of all happiness which we have so long despised, and teach us to seek life in Him alone!
Finally, we may learn that, as physical waters sustain physical life, so the true waters of Christ sustain the true life of the spirit. We are blessed in the highest that, since Christ has come into the world, we may now draw water from the wells of Salvation (Isaiah 12:3). Christ has come into his City, so that, in accordance with the prophecy of old, living waters may flow henceforth from Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:8). Christ has come to pour out his regenerating Spirit upon his people; this is the life-giving water which he showers upon the thirsty (Isaiah 44:3). And this water will not be dried up for all eternity. Everyone who drinks of it will be satisfied forever with life indeed.
It may seem out of place that the Samaritan woman, at this point, asked our Savior of the true place of worship. It is actually not out of place at all. Our death consists of this, that because of sin we are no longer able to worship and enjoy the fellowship with God for which we were made. True life is a restoration of sweet fellowship and peace with our God, so that we may worship him in spirit and in truth. Before the coming of Christ, even the redeemed were not at liberty to worship at any place they desired. God's presence abode uniquely at the temple in Jerusalem. If any man would enjoy close fellowship with the Lord, it was there that he must go. Salvation is indeed of the Jews, for it was from the Jewish line that he who is our eternal Salvation should spring; and therefore, the Jewish temple was of old the only true place of worship.
But when Christ came, the old temple was done away. God's presence among his people has been finally established by Christ's taking on human flesh to walk among us. Now, wherever we are on this earth, Christ is there in our midst (Matthew 18:20). Christ has once come to take up his presence with his people, and he will never henceforth leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Whereas of old the glory of God abode especially in the temple, Christ himself, who is the glory of the Godhead bodily, now dwells within us through his Spirit which he has poured out upon us in full measure (I Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:10). The long-awaited Messiah has come to earth: it is now the hour when all who have drunk of the waters which Christ has to offer may worship him in spirit and in truth, no longer bound by the restrictions of the day of unfulfilled shadows.
All you who are thirsty and unsatisfied, longing for the significance you have never encountered in the pursuits and pleasures you consume yourselves upon â€“ all you who have never found your dreams, and you who have attained your goals only to find yourselves more empty than before, turn your ears to Jesus! He cries out to us all, "Ho, every one that thirsts, come to the waters, and he that has no money; come, buy, and eat; yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Christ is our endless source of true life and joy. Let all who are thirsty drink of him and live.