She was an outcast, a nobody. Whenever she walked by, people would pretend they did not see her or whisper gossip to one another about her. She would never be invited to any parties or gatherings in the town. If she had any children, they too would have no friends. The other children would have been warned not to play at their house or go near them. She did not have a friend in the world.
For this reason we find her walking alone at the hottest time of the day to get water from Jacob’s well. At noon she hoped that everyone would be inside their homes avoiding the heat. She would not have to put up with the stares of the people in the street. And at the well she would not have to deal with the awkward silence that would come over everyone as soon as she approached.
Though she expected to be alone, there was someone at the well waiting for her. A Jewish man. At least he would not speak to her, or so she thought. What she did not know was that Jesus was there waiting for her. This man knew her loneliness. He knew all the choices she had made in the past which now haunt her, leaving her with no friends and no peace. What she also did not know was that He was the only one who could make everything right for her.
With the purest of intentions, Jesus begins to seduce her. He intrigues her with His offer of living water. In her mind, she thinks that if she could get this living water she would never have to come to the well again and face the other women of the town. But Jesus is talking about an even greater gift than that. He is offering her a refreshment that she has never known and could never imagine having. He is offering her peace with God, a relationship with Him that can sustain her. He is offering her a new life based not on shame and loneliness but on awareness of God’s love and freedom.
The woman is overwhelmed by what Jesus tells her. Forgetting her shame, she now no longer avoids the people of her town but runs up to their homes knocking furiously on their doors beckoning them to come to the well and meet the one who told her “everything she had ever done.” Though they may have thought she was crazy, they did come out to meet Jesus and they eventually believed in Him.
As the town’s greatest sinner, she was the most unlikely person that Jesus would meet. Even more, she was the most unlikely person to carry His message to others. But she was precisely the one whom Jesus chose. She was precisely the one whom Jesus sought out, because His delight is in finding the lost, in rescuing those most in danger and in bringing love to the most abandoned.
Like the woman going to the well, we have come here to this church today looking for something. Perhaps we are lonely and feel that we do not have a real friend in the world. Perhaps we are burdened with shame, haunted by the sins of our past and frightened that we lack the strength to not repeat them in the future. Perhaps our hearts have grown cold and hard and we need faith, hope and love to rejuvenate them. Perhaps we are tired from all the responsibilities of life and just need to rest.
Jesus is waiting for us here. In fact, Jesus has been expecting us. He wants to refresh us with the living water - His word which revives us and His Holy Spirit who sustains us. He wants to reassure us that He knows everything we have ever done. He understands the burden of shame we carry, but He loves us anyway and He wants us to put that burden down for good. If we give it to Him, He can carry it for us instead. If we have been feeling distant from God, He wants to teach us how to worship in Spirit and in Truth. We know that His word is truth and that when we gather here with other believers the Holy Spirit is among us. Finally, He wants us to know that He is the Messiah, the Saviour of the World. He is the One we long for. He is the One we have been searching for to soothe the aching of our hearts. He is here, and He is waiting for us.
Just as the Jews wandering in the desert found water in the most unlikely of places - a rock - and just as Jesus chose the most unlikely of persons - a sinful Samaritan woman - to carry His message, so we will find Jesus in the most unlikely of places and the most unlikely of persons. If we have found God to be elusive or fulfillment to be beyond our reach, it could be that we have been looking everywhere else except where He can be found. It could be that we have to slow down and begin opening our eyes to everything and everyone around us. God loves us, He is waiting for us and He is looking for us. It could be that we just have not noticed it yet. One thing we can be sure of is that when we do slow down, open our eyes and begin to notice it will be a surprise.
How will we know when we have met Jesus and have found the spring of living water? We will know for sure when we want to share it with others, when we want to tell our family, friends and neighbors all that God has done for us so that they can share our joy. Joy - a contagious, overflowing joy that we cannot keep to ourselves - is the sure sign that God is living within us. If that joy is still elusive, all we need do is ask Jesus for the gift of living water. He has been waiting a long time to offer it to us. Let us lay down our burden of shame, our fears and our doubts believing that just as He loved us enough to die for us on a cross He will not refuse us the living water our hearts long for. Then let us open our eyes to marvel at all the surprising ways in which He will answer our prayer.