John 4:10-15 (ESV)
10 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.” 11 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? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.” 15 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.”
The Women at the Well
Jesus is heading from Judea to Galilee. While on the trip he stops in Samaria. This is where Jesus meets a Samaritan woman, who we learn is an outcast in her community as she goes to collect water from the well at a time that when no one was around.
This meeting occurs around the well. The place that provided hydration for the community and their way of life. If you wanted water for anything in your house, then you travelled to the well and brought it back to your house. This is the context that Jesus uses to change this woman’s life. She goes from being an outcast to one of the earliest evangelists for the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus tells the women and us that He is the source of Spiritual sustenance. He is what will quench the yearning and thirsting of our soul.
We also need to understand that Jesus is talking with someone who could be termed as a non-believer. So, the living water mentioned is regarding Salvation. Jesus came to this world to take on our punishment so that we could have access to salvation or to the living water.
This is where things get interesting. Jesus says the living water is a ‘spring of water welling up’. Some versions say spring of water others say well. Either way, Jesus is basically talking about a reservoir, or storage, of water. But there is something different about this well. It is not passive, it is not just holding water, it is a well that is welling up or rising.
There is a very rare type of well that naturally draws out and spurts water. This well is called an Artesian Well, where water pressure from below the water table causes water to spurt out of a well.
Further on in John’s Gospel, Jesus is recorded as saying, (John 10:10b) “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
This reservoir of life-giving water that Jesus is talking about is about how salvation impacts us personally. This is for us to access ourselves. We each have access to the spiritual sustenance which provides for our spiritual need in abundance and excessively.
John 7:37-39 (ESV)
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given because Jesus was not yet glorified.
The Festival of Tents
This situation was occurring during the time of the ‘Feast of Booths’, ‘Festival of Tabernacles’, Festival of Tents’. These are names for the same event. This festival recognised that they once lived in tents in the wilderness and that God provided for them. The celebrations would go for seven days and everyone would build tents to live in for the duration of the celebration. This was a joyous time within Jewish communities. People were in good spirits.
As part of the festivities, people would go up and spend time in the temple. One of the rituals that would occur across the seven days was that Priest would take a golden bowl and fill it with water from the pool of Siloam. They would pour the water into a large bowl beside the altar in the temple. This was a ceremony of Thanksgiving for God’s provision of water, especially while they were wandering in the wilderness. On the final day of the celebration, they would then pour out the water from beside the altar which would gush down the steps of the altar, which spoke about God’s blessing being poured out.
It was at this point that Jesus stood up and shouted to a full temple courtyard. “If anyone thirsts let Him come to me and drink.”
This is a similar message to what Jesus told the Samaritan woman. But now the imagery changes in Jesus’ message. Jesus says that out of the believer’s very being (essence) will flow streams/ rivers of living water.
Here we see the image of flowing water, which could be translated at torrents of water. It’s not just a trickle of water, it is a lot of water. A river or a stream has incoming water and outgoing water.
The imagery that Jesus uses is of metaphoric rivers of blessing, eternal peace and satisfaction that flow in and through the believer’s life.
But John, the author of this Gospel, doesn’t want his readers to be confused about this, so he includes an explanation. Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit. In the life of the believer, the Holy Spirit empower, equips and works through those who believe. The Holy Spirit is poured into our lives so that we can pour it out. The living water is not to be horded up and kept to ourselves at this point.
Jesus used these two very similar images, with similar phrases to say something similar, but different. You see the well is a catchment of water, while a river is a flow of water.
The well talks about the personal spiritual sustenance that Jesus gives us through salvation. We will never thirst again when we allow Jesus to meet our spiritual needs (John 10:10b). But our faith is not about storing this up, we can’t keep our perspective as a Well. The sustaining work of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not for the believer to store up.
Jesus supplies the Holy Spirit to His followers for the purpose of empowering and equipping them to also be a source of deeper spiritual hydration for others through the power of the Holy Spirit. This needs to flow out of our very being, as believers and Christ followers.
The reason why we need to acknowledge the differences in these word images that Jesus uses:
You have access to Jesus and the salvation that brings.
You have access to the Holy Spirit and the empowerment that brings.
We need to have wells and be streams.
Wells of spiritual sustenance that are life changing, life defining and life fulfilling.
Streams that flow out with that spiritual sustenance to others through the power of the Holy Spirit. We need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that enables us to be the instrument of change. We need to let the Holy Spirit flow into our life and flow through us. This is what being filled with the Holy Spirit is, allowing the Holy Spirit to flow in and out of our life. Some people dig the well, but then try to contain the Holy Spirit.
Do you feel like you know and have experienced the spiritual sustenance that Jesus talked about to the woman at the well? Do you feel like you are an effective stream/ river flowing with the power of the Holy Spirit? In and Out. No blockage.
Have wells and be streams
In faith, hope and love
Steve and Cass Abram