Living Water and the Woman at the Well


The Following is a draft of a talk I gave for our Jubilee College Ministry based on John 4

So – we’re in the middle of an all church series based on Gabe Lyons book The Next Christians…looking at who we are as Christians, at who we are called to be in the world.  Last week we talked about how we’re called as Christians to Lean-Into our places of pain.  That God will meet us there…we don’t have to just pretend everything is ‘fine’ and that we need to keep stuffing down more and more all of the things that our souls are breaking under the weight of. Instead God’s healing and transformation begins when we allow ourselves to enter into those rough places.


This week we’ll be talking a little bit about the woman at the well.


Woman at the Well




The story opens and Jesus finds himself in Samaria…which is a place where no Jew wants to be.  Good Jews don’t go to Samaria, and Good Jews don’t talk to Samaritans…and it is there he encounters this woman.


3 he left Judea and started back to Galilee. 4 But he had to go through Samaria


I think it’s interesting that Jesus encounters her in Samaria…he’s on his way to Galilee…but suddenly he finds himself with this woman in Samaria.  I just think that’s worth mentioning.  It seems like all of us here think we’re headed somewhere else, that we’re on the way to a big job or career or graduate school…that this is just a quick stop on the way to somewhere else… but maybe sometimes it’s in those in-between places that God works and brings people together in remarkable ways.  Sometimes it’s on the road to somewhere else that God uses us to do amazing Kingdom things…




Jesus encounters the woman at the well, we’re told in verse 6 it happens at about Noon. And she’s by herself.


This is interesting because people usually gathered together at wells in the morning to draw water because it was cooler outside still, and they would gather together as a community.  They would talk, and laugh, and share stories…but this woman was there at Noon, during the heat of the day, by herself.  Something is not right here.


I keep wondering how many times she has come to this well for water.


She keeps coming back to this place, thinking that that well will quench her thirst.  She keeps coming back, all alone, by herself, in the heat of the day…thinking that particular hole in the ground will give her life…but clearly this is NOT working out well for her.


She is alone.  She feels unloved, unworthy of anyone else’s affection, and I wonder, if she was honest – if maybe she wondered she deserved to be alone.  And this is interesting – I hadn’t thought of this until now but – was she all alone at noon because she was being Judged for her past by other people and she didn’t feel welcomed by them, or, was she all alone because she felt so guilty herself that she wouldn’t allow anyone to get close to her.  Was she afraid that if anyone got too close they might see that she didn’t have it all together?  Maybe she couldn’t bare the thought of encountering someone who would realize that even though she kept coming to this well every day acting like she loved doing it, acting like everything was great…she was secretly dying inside.  And yet everyday she keeps coming back to this hole – this pit – thinking that it will give her water, give her life…but it’s not working out for her…


False Wells
And I wonder for us this evening what those holes, or pits, in our own lives are…


those places where we keep trying to get filled up – the places where we’ve convinced ourselves that there is water and life here, but, in the end it just leaves us thirstier than ever before.  The woman at the well, when she is honest with herself KNOWS that it’s not working out for her…she asks Jesus in verse 15 ‘give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or having to keep coming HERE to draw water‘.  She knows she’s been getting water from a false well.  A well that doesn’t quench her thirst but only makes her thirstier. She knows it but she just keeps…






over and over…


I wonder what our false wells are…


Maybe like the woman at the well some of us we keep running from bad relationship to bad relationship – thinking that these fleeting encounters fill us up…and maybe for a moment it almost does…but a few days later we realize we’re still thirsty for validation and self-worth.
Maybe for some of us we have a group of ‘friends’ that we’re desperately seeking the approval of.  Maybe it’s a sorority, a fraternity, a club, maybe it’s your parents or family, I don’t know – but maybe there are people that we’ve convinced ourselves that we need to be around, that they will fill us up, that they are the sole source of our WORTH, but like the woman at the well, we keep finding ourselves alone and feeling unaccepted, feeling unloved, and like we don’t quite fit in.  We keep feeling like there’s something wrong with us even when we’re around them and we’re not sure what do to.


Maybe it’s not relational at all – maybe we keep trying to drink at the well of our OWN success…if I just do one more thing, if I just join one more club, if I just stay as busy as I can possibly be then I won’t have to pause and confront the fact that I can not do it all – and that’s Okay…my sole worth doesn’t come from all that I do…Or the false well of Pride and Ego – where we believe our worth comes from being smarter and more Right and knowing BETTER Theology than everyone else – so we walk tall and proud like the Pharisees – all the while missing Jesus, the living water, flowing all around us.


Maybe I can quench my thirst with my appearance and looks – if I can find the right outfit and make up and tan and whatever then I will finally be able to look in the mirror and like what I see – then I won’t feel thirsty anymore.


…And somehow we convince ourselves that those false wells are the answer…that they have living water in them…
I don’t know what your FALSE well is – the place where you think you’re filling yourself up, but really it’s just a hole, it’s just a pit. But I have a hunch that we all have them…


Jesus Shows up
But the story doesn’t end there at the FALSE well.  It doesn’t end at the pit!  It gets good!


Jesus shows up!
Jesus sees past that false well.  It isn’t that he doesn’t know the woman’s past, he isn’t ignorant of the past, but maybe Jesus sees something different.
Maybe he knows her even more than she knows herself.
While the woman at the well sees herself only in light of her False self – believing she’s this unlovable, marked person who is destined to spend the rest of her life in this endless cycle of trying to be filled up only to be let down again – maybe Jesus sees her True Self.


The self that was created in the image of God.


The self that was knit together by God in her mothers womb.


The self that at the moment when she was born and she drew her first breath God saw her and she ‘She Is Good’.


She is mine.




It’s a love that goes past appearances, achievements, grades, mistakes, regrets, misteps, or even relationships, past the temples we’ve built of our own Self-aggrandizing theology, past the things we have or haven’t done…
We each have that image of God in all of us.  We are made in God’s image and loved by God…
but I wonder if some of us have just let other things cover up that spark and light that God put inside us.  We cover it up until we believe that spark of Holy Goodness isn’t there at all…


Dual Survivorman


I watch this show on Netflix, it’s a pretty trashy show but I love it. It’s called Dual Survivor man.  The premise of the show is they take this super masculine type A personality US Marine, and this barefoot nature loving hippie and they stick them together and watch them try to live in the wilderness.  And of course they fight about stuff cause they’re this odd couple that see things differently, but *spoiler alert* in the end they get along and really appreciate one another.  And that’s basically every single episode.  ‘Oh we’re so different!’, and then ‘oh wow our differences are what make sure great!’  It’s trashy but I love it!


Anyway – one of the things they have to do all the time is make fire.  And so you seem them rub these sticks together into a pile of kindling, this tiny pile of grass and moss.  And finally when they rub a stick together they get a single ember. This tiny red piece of potential flame. And there’s a single thin thread of smoke coming up, just a little wisp from the ember.  And they carefully cradle the ember, and pick up the kindling and begin to blow.  And there’s just a hint of smoke, and nothing is happening…and you think that the ember went out, that there’s nothing left.  And they just keep blowing, until all of the sudden this fire erupts! The whole piece of kindling is crackling and flaming and ALIVE – it’s DANCING and MOVING in this mesmerizing and enchanting way…And they take this kindling and put it under the larger sticks and soon they have a whole bon-fire.


Maybe That’s what happens to this woman?  Jesus says, ‘Hey, I know you think that there’s life over there in that pit, in that hole in the ground…but life isn’t over there.  The life is with me.  It’s resting in me! I am the living water because it is in ME that you have life and fire and flame…not those other things…I want you to see that.  To know that that spark is in you! To see that you are created in the image of God and God loves you – and I want you to know that! To know it all the way through until you come ALIVE in a whole new way!’


And she gets lit on FIRE!


As She leaves behind her water Jar in verse 28 you can see it…she lets go of that old FALSE source of water because she’s found something better…something living. She has been carrying that Jar to the false well for years, but now she’s ready to let go of that False self, and find this new, living water.


In the end of the chapter the woman at the well goes back to the city and suddenly SHE begins telling people about Jesus – about this source of living water.  This is totally amazing stuff – the woman who believed she was completely unlovable becomes the very person who will show others just how LOVED they truly are.  Isn’t that amazing?


Wrap up
Here’s the deal…it took me a little while to get here…but I was actually supposed to talk about Judging others tonight…


Maybe Jesus didn’t waste his time dwelling on the False self this woman has created,
maybe Jesus sees her the way the Father – the way God – sees her…
He sees that ember, that divine spark inside of her…and he wants to nurture it, to grow it, and to watch it come alive…he wants her to not settle for something less than she Truly is – and then to watch as that realization of her Belovedness frees her to share that Love with everyone around her…


So why is that hard for us?



I think sometimes we judge others, if we’re honest, because we’re afraid of what other people will think of us so we beat them to it and shut them out.  We don’t go to the well in the morning because we’re afraid that if we go there we will be outcast.  We don’t talk to people who look like they’re from a sorority, or a fraternity, or a jock or a nerd or richer than us or poorer than us or one of ‘those’ kind of Christians or whatever because we’re afraid of what they will think of us.  Maybe we’ve been hurt in the past, and we’re drinking from this false well believing that we can’t trust anyone who looks any different than us.


Sometimes I think we judge others because we’ve convinced ourselves that our value comes from being better than other people.  If we can have it just a little more together than someone else, then it means that we’re doing something right, then all of the sudden I don’t have to worry about myself anymore because at least I’m better than that person! We drink from the false well of superiority or of cynicism that tells us we only have value if we are Better than someone else.


Sometimes I think we refuse to offer grace to other people because we refuse to accept it ourselves.  So we struggle to not judge others because if they’re not trying as desperately hard as we are to be Perfect then they must be doing somethinn wrong!


But There is Another way!


the way of living water-


…to learn to see yourself the way Jesus sees you…


To learn to see others the way Jesus sees them…


To look for that divine spark inside of each person…to look past the facade of the cloths and the labels and the clubs and the hobbies, and to try to see the heart of the other that God has made and has said it is GOOD.


And to point others, in a loving, humble, vulnerable, honest, organic, non-coercive way – to the place where we have found our living water.

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