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When Jesus Got Thirsty

Key References: John 4:5-42; The Desire of Ages, chap. 19, pp. 183-190; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 7, pp. 145- 150; Our Beliefs nos. 5, 10, 4

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“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

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Wherever we are, we can worship God in the Spirit and in truth in response to His love.

Have you ever run out of water to drink? Or have you ever been really thirsty? This story is about being thirsty for water, and for much, much more. Imagine the heat.

Dust puffed up in little clouds around the feet of the group of Jewish men walking in the noontime sun toward the beautiful valley of Shechem. At the opening of the valley was Jacob’s well. Jesus gladly sat there to rest while the disciples went into the Samaritan town to get some food.

After a little while a woman came down the path to the well. She had her own pitcher, her own rope. She let the pitcher down, down, down, and Jesus could hear it splash as it reached the water. He was silent. She was silent. She acted as if she didn’t know anyone else was anywhere near. The Jews and the Samaritans who lived in the area tried not to have anything to do with each other.

As she turned to leave with her full pitcher on her shoulder, Jesus spoke. “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7).

That was a request she couldn’t refuse. A proper Jewish man would never ask a Samaritan woman for anything, but no one in that dry desert region would think of refusing a request for water.

“Why are you asking me for a drink, since you are a Jew?” she blurted out bluntly.

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink,” said Jesus, “you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (verse 10). Jesus loved to make people think.

The woman wasn’t sure what Jesus meant, but it sounded important. She didn’t feel quite sure of herself. But all she could see was a tired Jewish traveler. “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself?” she asked.

Jesus didn’t answer her question directly. As usual He said something that she would have to think about. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst” (verses 13, 14).

She knew that very well. She didn’t like having to come here every day.

Jesus continued . “Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (verse 14).

The woman still wasn’t sure exactly what Jesus was talking about, but she knew that it sounded like something she wanted. “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water,” she said simply.

“Go, call your husband,” He said, “and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she said, and started to lift her pitcher to her shoulder again.

“You are right when you say you have no husband,” He calmly replied. “The fact is,” He continued, “you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband” (verses 16-18). She lowered her pitcher again and stared at Him in shock. The woman was quiet. How could this man read all the secrets of her life? She knew that this must be what it would feel like to stand before God. She knew that her life was a mess. But she wasn’t ready to talk about it.

“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet,” she said, really meaning it. But she also wanted to change the subject. She wasn’t ready to deal with her problems. “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain,” she went on, “but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem” (verses 19, 20).

Jesus talked to her calmly and without prejudice. He was interested in her soul more than in her understanding of forms and ceremonies. She responded to His gentle but convincing words.

“A time is coming and has now come,” he said, “when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (verse 23).

“I know that Messiah is coming,” she said at last. ”When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Jesus smiled, forgetting His tiredness, His hunger, and His thirst. He could see that she believed in the coming of the Messiah. Wanting to help her recognize who He was, He added. “I, the one speaking to you--I am he” (verses 25, 26).

The woman started to understand the meaning of Jesus’ words. She recognized in Him the Messiah, Whose hope-filled message of grace spoken to an outcast Samaritan woman like herself was indeed “the water of life”. Leaving her water pitcher by the well, she hurried toward the village to call her neighbors to come and hear what she had heard.

Jesus hadn’t had a drink of water yet. The woman hadn’t even remembered to give Jesus a drink of water nor did she take time to have a drink of water herself. Yet both Jesus and the Samaritan woman felt refreshed.