Because of cell phone cameras we can show people things we think are interesting or amazing. But remember the days before that? We had to use words to explain something. Often our words would fall short in what we were trying to describe.
Like a sunset on the lake. Without a picture, we’d probably use the word beautiful or colorful. Does beautiful capture the magnificence of a sunset? Does colorful tell us enough?
Or a baby. Your grandbaby was just born. How do you describe that bundle of joy? Probably we’d use the word precious. Does precious capture the miracle of a baby? Or you might say, “He’s a little dumpling.” But what if the only dumpling they know of is in a soup with chicken?
Describe an enjoyable meal. We say: It was delicious. Does that capture the aroma, flavors and texture of a meal? What does delicious really mean? You may think sushi is delicious and yet it makes me want to gag.
If our words are inadequate to explain what we want someone to understand, we may turn to comparison. We’ll try to compare one thing to another using symbols. This is like this.
- The sunset is like a whole box of crayons melting and running down the sky and pooling onto the lake.
- A baby is a like a tiny person you just want to kiss to taste its sweetness.
- This meal was like an explosion of sensations to my tastebuds celebrating flavors I didn’t know were possible.
Jesus was a master at using what people were familiar with to help them understand deeper truths. He’d use illustrations or parables to make analogies so they could grasp mysteries. When people had limited or no knowledge of what He was talking about, He’d compare spiritual truth to physical objects or situations they could understand.
- The Word of God is like seeds planted in fertile soil.
- The Kingdom of God is like a man finding a very valuable pearl.
- The Heavenly Father is like a dad who welcomed back his prodigal son.
He did that when He met a woman one day at a well near Sychar. It was a strategic meeting that opened the door to sharing with the people of that city who He was. He timed this meeting to her coming to the well to draw water so He could reveal the deeper need of her life. She was after physical water. Jesus offered her Living Water.
John 4:4 And He had to pass through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob's well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." 11 She said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?" 13 Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."
We understand the story of her life without knowing all the details. She was a man-stealer, a bar-hopper. She’d move from man to man, losing interest in one to follow the attraction of another. Which means her reputation was trashed. How much collateral damage had she caused? How many homes had she ruined? Honorable society would have nothing to do with her. So, instead of coming to the well in the morning with the other ladies, she came alone, in the middle of the day. The price she paid for her chosen life-style was a heavy cost – the cost of an empty and meaningless life.
She jumped at Jesus’ offer of living water. Why? She was thinking in terms she understood. A source of water that would make it so she’d never have to come to this well again, never have to expose her sad and sorry life.
Why did Jesus say Living Water? Living water was unique and special water.
The two most common sources of water in that land were water collected in a cistern and well water. Cistern water was rainwater collected into a hole dug into the ground or in large clay pots. Most homes and public buildings had them. The water was often dirty, having flowed from roofs or streets into the cistern. After a rain you had to allow the filth to settle to the bottom. Because it stayed in the cistern for a while, often the water would become stagnant, and as it was used down it would mix with the dredge in the bottom when you drew it out. The water became nasty. Also, you could never depend on cistern water year-round because it was only available when it rained.
Well water was fresher water but, because it was dug out of the ground, it could also be affected by dirt and debris mixed in. It was better but still not fresh and pure.
Jan’s family lived on some acreage out of town and got their water from a well. When you ran the pump, the rule was to let the water run out onto the ground for a few minutes before you redirected it into the storage tank. Reason? To flush out the dirt that got stirred up when it was first drawn up by the pump.
Running water, especially spring water, was different. It stayed fresh and clean. And because most springs were dependable, they provided water year-round. That’s why it was called living water. But in Jerusalem there was only one source of living water.
The Gihon Spring brought flowing water into Jerusalem. It fed the Pool of Bethesda and collected in the Pool of Siloam. Its water was vital for ceremonial cleansing in preparation for service in the Temple.
Now, we know Jesus wasn’t offering the woman her own personal spring-fed pool of water, because that would only fix the surface problems of her life. She had deeper issues. She was seeking meaningful life in a direction that didn’t work. Nothing she had done nor was doing could fulfill her life. She needed something else but didn’t know what that was or how to get it.
Jesus took the issue of her having to come to the well to draw water in the middle of the day to expose the real reason her life she was empty and unable to satisfy her.
He said, “Let’s talk about your love-life.” That’ll jerk your head around. She was well-acquainted with relationships that didn’t last. She could have been the poster-child for disappointing choices in men. But those were only symptoms of what was really wrong with her life. Looking for love in all the wrong places was an indication she had no success in living a fulfilled life.
Then she got it. It’s a great moment when someone figures out what you’re talking about. You see the lights come on, the head nods, the puzzled look relaxes into a smile. She finally connected the dots when she realized Jesus wasn’t talking about physical water but spiritual water. Not offering her something that satisfied a moment but something that succeeded in producing a fulfilled life.
Samaritans weren’t ignorant of Messianic prophecy and success in life was a part of the Messianic promise.
A passage well-known to all Jews and even Samaritans was: Ps 118:25 O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity! 26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD;
The word for prosperity means success. Lord, grant us success in how we live our lives. It was the promise of fulfillment. The Messiah would bring about the fulfillment they longed for.
Remember Jesus saying: John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
The objective of the thief is to disappoint. To take away, leave us empty and unfilled. Satan had stolen life from this lady and gave her the dredges instead. Jesus came to give that would finally satisfy her life.
After this encounter with Jesus, she went back into town and told everyone she had found the Messiah. Why is she so sure? He offered her a successful life – successful in that He relieved her emptiness and filled the hole in her heart which had never happened before. But where did the living water part come in?
That was another promise of the Messiah. Isa 12:2 Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation." 3 Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.
The satisfying water, the fulfilled life promised by the Messiah, was connected to the image of living water drawn from a spring. What is this spring Isaiah saw? The spring of salvation.
The word for salvation in Hebrew is: Yeshua. Interesting that that also was the name specifically told by the angel to be the name of Jesus. Yeshua was Jesus’ Hebrew name.
Seeing a picture unfold? The spring of living water was Jesus Himself. That was what He was offering the woman – believe in Me, receive Me. I am the Living Water that will satisfy your life forever.
Now that prophecy of Isaiah created the defining moment later, at one of the festivals Jesus attended. The Feast of Booths or Tabernacles was a celebration of joy acknowledging Gods’ past work in delivering Israel from Egypt but also anticipating the coming of the Messiah. It was a week-long celebration and each day had three unique moments to capture the peoples’ hearts for worship. The most important symbol being a daily water ceremony.
In a collection of Jewish sayings is this: "He that has never seen the joy of the [ceremony of the water] has never in his life seen joy."
Each day, during this week-long festival, the priests would march from the temple to the Pool of Siloam, which was fed by the Gihon Spring. One of the priests would fill a golden pitcher with water, and they would all return to the temple. The priest carrying the pitcher would enter through the Water Gate and, to the blast of the shofar rams horn, approach the altar. He made one circle around the altar as the crowd sang the Hallel.
What’s the Hallel? Ps 118:25 O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity! 26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. This Psalm is part of the section declaring the coming of the Messiah.
Then the priest would climb the steps of the altar and stand at the top. The crowd would go silent as the priest would pour the water onto the altar. Then, he’d hold up the empty pitcher and the celebration would begin. There would be dancing and music as the people expressed their great joy in the promise that the Lord’s Messiah would come.
This was done on each day of the festival, but on the last day, during this silent moment, while the Hallel was still ringing in everyone’s ears: John 7:37 Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”
To the shock of the crowd, Jesus was presenting Himself as the Living Water. And, like He did with the Woman at Jacob’s well, He was offering to everyone there that which guaranteed success for what they were longing for in life – salvation – that which would fulfill their lives.
Isa 58:11 And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
But wait, there’s more: Each day of the seven-day feast there were three strategic moments.
Just before dawn each day, the priests gathered at the eastern gate of the Temple area. As the sun appeared they turned away from it and faced to the west, toward the Temple. Then they would announce: "Our fathers, when they were in this place turned their faces toward the east, and they worshiped the sun; but as for us, our eyes are turned toward the LORD." God, our eyes are on You. Let us see what You want us to see.
When we pray a prayer like that, God will open our eyes to see things we’ve never seen before.
The second moment was the Living Water. The third happened at night. Four huge torches were set up to illuminate the entire Temple area.
The light from these torches represented two distinct lights mentioned in Scripture. The first was the Shekinah Glory — the visible presence of God that filled the first Tabernacle and the Temples, and guided Israel through the wilderness. The second was the Great Light (the Messiah) who would come to bring light into the darkness. Isa 9:2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.
Now, imagine the last night of the festival and you are in the courtyard of the Temple lit up by these huge flaming torches. You are still thinking of what Jesus said about the Living Water. Then Jesus said: John 8:12 "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."
He announced two truths with one statement: (1) I am God in the flesh and the presence of the Glory of God in the Temple, (2) I am the Great Light who Isaiah said would come. Add that to the moment of pouring the Living water on the altar and Jesus announced who He was and what He offered.
The crowd knew what He meant. He was saying, "I am the reality of what this festival symbolizes. I am the water, the true-life giver and I am the Light, who directs you to the Father. I am the salvation of God.”
2Cor 4:6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Jesus stood as the visible fulfillment that the Messiah had come and could provide the success that satisfied the longings within their hearts of all people as He lit the way out of the darkness to any who would receive Him.
Seeing this day 700 years before the moment, Isaiah wrote: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Isa 55:1
Closing out our Bible, John wrote: “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Rev 22:17
Why no cost? Jesus paid it all.
- Jesus paid it all; all to Him we owe.
- Sin had stained our lives with darkness and emptiness.
- His Living Water washed our sin away and filled our hearts with life.
- He brought to us the privilege of a successful life, one in which we can be satisfied and fulfilled by the God who loves us and provides us with all we need.