Reading: John 4
I was reading John 4, yesterday morning in my devotions, the encounter of Jesus with the woman at the well, and for the first time the phrase, “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town...” (John 4:28), stood out to me. Leaving her water jar... is there anything significant in that detail? Is it merely narrative detail, making the story more interesting? Certainly it is the kind of thing that the disciple John would have noticed upon returning to Jesus. When they left Him there was no water jar with Him. “Why is this here?” the disciples might wonder. Is there more to this little detail? If so, does it have anything to do with me?
I suggest it is connected to the larger conversation Jesus is having with this woman. What is John 4 about? It is about Jesus the source and giver of living water... eternal life. Jesus' encounter begins in earnest the moment the disciples leave to buy food. A Samaritan woman arrives at the well to draw water and Jesus immediately engages her in conversation, asking for a drink. The woman's response is was something along the order of, “Did you fall off the cabbage truck yesterday? Don't you know better than to ask me for a drink?” (John 4:7-9) Then Jesus makes a most amazing statement.
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
Did you see that? If she asks, He will give. What I find most amazing about that is that this woman was living with a man, had been married 5 times previous, and has done no repenting. Yet Jesus plainly tells her, If you knew Me, and if you asked Me, I would have given you living water, i.e. eternal life!” What in the world? Doesn't Jesus know there is a lot more to it than this? Doesn't He need to explain something to her? Doesn't she at least need to acknowledge her sinfulness and turn from them and then ask Him?
Furthermore, Jesus tells her that if she drinks this living water, she will never thirst. So she asks for it, desiring not to have to keep coming to draw water (John 4:14-15). Jesus had already promised that if she asked, He would give her living water. Now she asks! We know Christ will give it to her. Wait up, though, she does not yet know, “who it is that asks you for a drink”. Don't fear, Jesus will take care of that momentarily.
In order to reveal Himself to her, He now asks her to go call her husband, knowing that she has none, but had five and was presently living with a man out of wedlock. This leads into a conversation which no doubt needed further explanation for the woman (John 4:19-24), so the woman responds:
“I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26)
Now, she knows who He is, as He just made it plain, and she has asked him for living water. It seems that the only conclusion the text leaves us to draw is that she now has Living Water, even eternal life! Indeed she can now see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3), indeed she is staring at the King. That brings us back to where we started.
Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?" 28Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town...” (John 4:27-28)
One translation says, “at that very moment his disciples came back” and so the woman departs, “leaving her water jar.” It seems that she will no longer need to keep coming back... or more significantly, that she has now received this Living Water and knows she will never thirst. Of course, I realize that this woman won't stop drinking water, and she may have picked up the water jar later on when she brought people back. But John wants us to see that this woman suddenly became unconcerned about her water jar, unconcerned about her ability to keep drawing water, for she was suddenly satisfied in a way that she thirsted no more!
The question I must ask myself as I consider this is, “What water jars am I still holding onto in pursuit of what will satisfy me?” I know Christ, the gift that He is and Messiah, the Christ, that He is, and I have asked for living water. But all too often, I wonder if I am too concerned about my water jar. I know Christ has satisfied me and satisfies me with living water. But do I know that He will satisfy me always? Do I understand that I will never thirst? Do you? If so, have you left your water jar(s)—those things you use to quench your thirst apart from Christ? This woman did.
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