Finding True Satisfaction: A Devotion on John 4

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 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.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

John 4:1-26

So, Jesus is in Samaria on his way up to Galilee and he stops to rest at a well outside town at around noon or so while his disciples go to get food. While he’s sitting there this woman comes out to the well and he starts talking to her. He wants to give her some kind of strange eternally thirst-quenching super-water. Naturally, the woman wants some of this seemingly magic water. And so Jesus tells her to go get her husband, and she admits she doesn’t have one, which is true. She doesn’t have a husband. Never mind the fact that she has had five husbands and is currently living together with a man who is not her husband. And Jesus calls her out on it. You can almost see her body tense up, her breath get caught in her throat, her eyebrows raise, as she says, “I see that you are a prophet.” There’s no denying it. This guy has been sent from God. He knows everything about her. And so maybe, she reasons, he can weigh in on this whole mountain worship issue. Now, suffice it to say that in the Old Testament there was a big controversy over whether or not everybody had to come down to the city of Jerusalem to worship, or if they could just worship on the mountain in their own region. It was a really big deal in ancient times, I mean, kings were overthrown because of this sort of thing, and in the first century it’s still a big issue that drives apart the Jews and the Samaritans.

So, what does Jesus say? Well, he kind of dismisses the whole issue. Instead, he points forward to a time when that question won’t even matter. God is going to relate to his people in a new way. He’s pointing to the new covenant, the fulfillment of all the promises God has made to his people Israel. He’s talking Messiah-talk. And the woman sees this too. You can see the wheels spinning in her head as she thinks, “This guy’s something else. Not only does he know me, but he knows God.”

And so she baits him to see what he’ll say, “I know Messiah is coming.” Implied: “Is that you, Jesus?” And what does he say? Not just that he’s the Messiah, the Christ, like the ESV text says, “I who speak to you am he.” A little more literally translated, he says, “I am he who speaks to you.” I am. That is, Yahweh. Elsewhere in John’s Gospel this kind of talk almost gets Jesus stoned. The Jews knew what this meant. Not only is he a prophet, and not only is he the Messiah, but he is identifying himself with Yahweh, the creator of the universe.

So, now we know who we’re talking to. The Messiah, the Son of God is right there in the flesh. But, what’s even more important is why he’s here and what he’s here to do. And that brings us back to the water, that super-water that he wants to give to this Samaritan woman. The water that doesn’t just satisfy thirst for the moment, but eternally and ultimately satisfies. Jesus wants to give this water to the woman. And he is able to do this because of who he is; he’s the eternal son of the father who has come to bring life and light into our dead and dark world.

Now, it’s easy to automatically nod our heads to all this, but I’ll hazard to guess that Jesus’ words at the beginning of this text will resonate with us deeper if we think about them a bit more. The water from the well only satisfies thirst for a moment. But it’s not that the water at the well was not very good at being water. That’s just how water is. It’ll satisfy our thirst. For a bit. It’s the same thing with food, and really everything else in this life. We always have to keep coming back again and again. Nothing satisfies.

In Ecclesiastes Solomon writes, “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.” So just like Mick Jagger, Solomon too can’t get no satisfaction. And neither can we. We try and satisfy ourselves with relationships or with doing something really valuable and meaningful with our lives, with our own moral and intellectual superiority over those idiot bloggers (fill in the blog that really ticks you off), or with material things and pleasures, or even with our own self-made piety, whatever form that takes for you. And yet none of that satisfies, because we exist in a creation that’s only a dim shadow of what it was meant to be. Everything leaves us wanting. Nothing is ever enough. Yet every time we somehow manage to convince ourselves that this time will be different. If we can just get that one thing, or if this other thing happens, then everything will be fine. If we can just have the right career, the right body, the right moral achievement, the right marriage or relationship or children, then we’ll be happy and satisfied. But it won’t. None of this stuff can really do that. And deep down, we all know this to be true if we’re honest with ourselves.

But in Christ God has come to truly satisfy us. Although not in the ways that we try and satisfy ourselves. He cuts through all our garbage and he comes and gives us real life. He breathes life into us in the same way that he breathed life into Adam in the garden. He recreates us anew. Through the death and darkness of Calvary, he breaks into our dead and dark lives and brings us the life and light of his resurrection.

So when you go through your life and you inevitably realize that everything you use to satisfy yourself will fail, as you will sooner or later, know that Jesus, the Messiah, Yahweh in human flesh offers you the same water he offers the Samaritan woman. So come, take and drink.



See also: Despair, Suffering, and the Christian Life


Image: “Clean Water” by USAID CC BY-NC

2 thoughts on “Finding True Satisfaction: A Devotion on John 4

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