In my first blog about our Bible Study on John, I wrote about the gritty and glorious God man, Jesus Christ. We’re learning that the beauty of the Christian gospel, in contrast to all other religions, is that God came down to earth as a man to meet men.
And women. The Samaritan woman in John 4 approaches the well outside her town to find a weary, traveling Jew, without his own water bottle, resting after a long journey. Midday sun hot on the back of her neck, she continues about her solitary business.
With the four words, “Give me a drink,” Jesus breaks all social propriety and cultural norms to speak to her.
How wonderful. In light of Christ’s humanity and deity, this encounter reminds me that Jesus is so like us and yet so very unlike us.
Embodied Like Us
To begin, Jesus’s weariness indicates that he had a normal body like ours. At the well, he rests while his disciples go on to find food. In other snapshots from his life, he turns water into wine for feasting, he multiplies loaves of bread and fish, and today he needs a drink of water. But here, he’s worn out from a long, hot journey, and he lets the disciples push on ahead of him to find food in the next town. Because he demonstrates the limitations of his body, he meets the woman where she is.
Loving Unlike Us
The original water cooler conversation isn’t just a nice way to break the ice or a social justice act to break down barriers. When Jesus is speaking to this woman, he addresses her spiritual need. Using the water as an analogy, he calls her to nourish herself with living water, “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” (John 4:13-14). Apparently, his desire to share the key to eternal life transcends his desire for water because those who drink living water no longer thirst either.
Instead of leaving the Samaritan woman with a bewildering statement, Jesus pursues her in a way no other person would or could show love. By emphasizing a healthy body, one that drinks living water, Jesus unmasks her sin. She has given her body over to several men, and the one with whom she currently has sexual relations is not her husband. This distortion of the body’s purpose leads to destruction and death. However, when he broaches the subject, he’s perceptive yet kind. Not only do his words reveal “all that [she] ever did” (v. 29) as she puts it, but his actions prior show a love that transcends humanity. In awe of this love, her need for water is quenched too, long enough to run (without her cistern) and tell the whole town her story.
Weary Like Us
Just before she runs off to spread the good news, the disciples return. They “marvel that he was talking with a woman” (v. 27) but they know not to question or reprimand him. They shrug it off. After all, they’re famished and urge Jesus to eat too. In the post-harvest season of extreme heat, the backroads journey from Judea to Galilee was taxing! We can tell from the text that Jesus feels weariness and hunger as deep as the disciples. They have a common human nature, but Jesus refuses food with a platitude, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (v. 34). Is he arrogant? Is he stoically resisting his hunger? Is he a lunatic?
Nourished Unlike Us
None of the above. Jesus is the Christ, the Savior, the one true God. Just as his desire for the Samaritan woman’s life transcends his desire for water, his desire for her town to be saved transcends his need for food. He sees before him a heavenly harvest, souls spilling toward him, perhaps wearing light-weight white clothing, and the sight satisfies him, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest” (v. 35). If the disciples look at the scene before them, they can see the spiritual fruit, ready to gather. In their great hunger, Jesus speaks of a deeper hunger, one only he can understand in full.
Because Jesus deeply understands the necessity of daily bread and the joy of a feast, he uses a food metaphor to show us greater nourishment. His heart’s desire is to save the souls of his people. He tells the disciples, and, by extension, us that ours ought to be the same.
Only when we love God’s work much more than our own satisfaction will we long to “feast in the house of Zion” and “sing with our hearts restored” (Sandra McCracken, 2015).
- Sarah Hauver