Today’s passage: John 4:1–42
Focus verse: “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)
People need water to live. Though we can survive many days without food, we can only make it a few without water. Without regular hydration, we will die. Water is essential to life.
In parts of the world, this life-sustaining substance is available in our homes. We turn on a faucet and all the water we want flows forth. Other areas aren’t so fortunate, with water not as accessible.
People must travel, sometimes quite far, to find the water they need to survive. Sometimes it’s clean, but too often it’s dirty or, even worse, polluted. Such is the daily reality for too many people.
Two thousand years ago few people had running water. They went to the town’s well every day to draw water. Water was more essential than food. This is what we see in the first part of John 4.
Jesus and his disciples stop in Samaria on their way to Galilee. It’s midday and Jesus rests by the town’s well as his disciples go into town to buy food. A woman comes out to fetch water. We assume she goes at noon because during the heat of the day no one else will be there.
Everyone else would’ve gotten their daily supply of water in the early morning before it got hot. Because of her sordid past, she wants to lessen her interactions with others, protecting herself from their critical looks and judgmental words.
Jesus asks her for a drink.
This surprises her because it’s unacceptable. The first problem is a Jewish man talking to a Samaritan woman. The second issue is that Jesus will need to drink from her cup. Both are things that religious Jews seek to avoid.
Now he surprises her even more. “If you knew who I was, you’d ask me for living water.”
She assumes he means physical water, but he’s referring to spiritual water. The kind that wells up to supply eternal life.
Jesus proves his supernatural power to her by revealing that he knows about her past. But he doesn’t judge her. Instead, Jesus accepts her for who she is.
She goes into town and tells everyone about Jesus. Based on her testimony, they come out to meet him. They believe in him and beg him to stay. He spends the next two days with them before resuming his trip to Galilee.
Jesus knows everything about this Samaritan woman, but he accepts her despite the lifestyle she leads. He offers her love that she doesn’t deserve without criticizing her life choices. In this way, Jesus shows her grace and mercy.
As for the woman, she seeks water to satiate her body, but Jesus gives her living water to save her soul. He offers her eternal life. She only needs to believe in him to receive it.
- What can we do to help people have clean water?
- What steps do you take to avoid judgmental or unpleasant interactions with others?
- What socially unacceptable things are you willing to do to let other people know about Jesus?
- How can we not judge others and better accept them for who they are?
- Is your testimony convincing enough so that others might believe?
Discover more about living water in Jeremiah 2:13, Jeremiah 17:13, Zechariah 14:8, John 7:38, and Revelation 7:17. Read more about life-giving water in Ezekiel 47:9 and Revelation 22:17. What insights can you glean from these passages?
Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.
Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.