Come to the Well
By: Noelle Kirchner
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” —John 4:13-14
“Mom, it’s our first science test of the year. Will you help me review?” I sat down to help my oldest son study. His tests are getting harder, and a quick review always helps.
For this test, he had to remember the chemical formula for photosynthesis. We talked about how water and carbon dioxide come together with light energy to produce sugar and oxygen. I taught him what it means to have a balanced equation; there are the same number of atoms on both sides of it. That’s a good way to check your work, I said.
We know life isn’t possible without water, but the formula for photosynthesis makes it clear. My son traced how water’s atoms can be found in both products of the equation. The formula illustrates how plants become producers in the food chain. It allows them to serve as the base of the energy pyramid of life.
Science reminds me of the intricacy of creation. The more I studied it in school, the more I saw the intentional hands of a Creator. The Bible teaches us about the Creator, but interestingly, Jesus takes up the metaphor of water to describe himself here.
In our passage today, Jesus offers the Samaritan woman water. This water has a double meaning, especially since they are beside a well. “Living water” could mean fresh, running water or life-giving water. As readers who know who Jesus is, we know it’s the latter. But the woman assumes the former and is perplexed by Jesus’ lack of a bucket.
Earlier in chapter four, we learn that Jesus approaches the well at noon. It is the heat of the day—the time people would most want a drink due to thirst. That makes the satisfaction Jesus promises even more enticing. There is a need that only he can fill, and it’s a need familiar to everyone.
We cannot miss the fact that Jesus makes his attractive offer in an unexpected way—to an unnamed woman of an enemy people. A man and teacher addressing a woman doubly broke convention; she was unknown and this was a public setting, respectively. Further, convention prohibited dialogue between Jews and Samaritans for fear of ritual contamination.
Jesus is underlining the fact that his life-giving water is for all people through this exchange. In fact, his dialogue with the woman is one of the longest recorded in the Gospel. It has thirteen exchanges. Jesus is addressing an unlikely recipient in a noteworthy way, offering her something everyone needs at the time of day they need it most and at the place where they can get it.
Just as water is essential to life in and around us, Jesus is teaching that it’s essential to our spirit. He offers us a drink in the parched places of our lives now and waves of refreshment in the life to come. The woman whom Jesus speaks with is parched indeed. She has had five husbands and is with another man. Shunned, she most likely feels shame and isolation, maybe even unlovable. Jesus knows and entrusts her with his invitation.
Jesus extends the same invitation today. Isaiah 55:1 reads, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…” Allow Jesus to sustain you where you need it most. Believe. No matter who you are, you’re welcome at the Well.
Want more on thirst? Read this devotion from my website and e-book!
Rev. Noelle Kirchner, MDiv., believes we don’t have to live with full schedules and thin souls. A busy mom of three boys, she is passionate about making faith fresh and relevant. Noelle is a graduate of Princeton Seminary and an ordained Presbyterian minister who has served in churches for over ten years. She has written for places like the TODAY Show Parenting Team, Huff Post Parents, The Laundry Moms, and (in)courage. Her faith and family cable television show, Chaos to Calm, features parenting hot topics and has hosted two New York Times bestselling authors. Watch her episodes or sermons, connect with her on social media, and follow her blog by visiting her website, or receive her free devotional e-book.
Looking for authentic conversations about how to deal with body image, insecurity, and comparison issues as a Christian woman? The Compared to Who? Podcast is the show for you! Twice a week, we tackle tough topics like dieting, disordered eating, weight loss, aging, body dysmorphia, and more from a practical, grace-filled, gospel-centered perspective.
Originally published Thursday, 02 March 2023.