I Am the Woman at the Well

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 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.” 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.” (John 4:13-15)

Have you ever been in a conversation that was so uncomfortable that you just had to change the subject abruptly? It’s pretty well known, for example, that if you’re among Minnesotans, you’re not supposed to bring up religion, politics or money. For whatever reason, those are especially uncomfortable topics of conversation for people in these parts. We’ve all experienced that moment when someone brings up a touchy subject and everyone else at the dinner table gets wide-eyed and just looks down at their plate and hopes someone else changes the subject.

There’s a situation just like that in John 4. Jesus is sitting at a well, talking with a Samaritan woman. The conversation up to this point has been friendly and considerate (albeit maybe a little strange). But suddenly the conversation takes a turn into the super awkward.

Jesus gets really personal. He tells the woman, “Go, call your husband and come back,” knowing full well that that question was going to be incredibly awkward and uncomfortable for the woman. She knows she’s living in sin. She’s living with a dude she’s not married to. And Jesus’s question is going to reveal it. So she answers the way we sinners so often do—with a half-truth: “I have no husband.” Was that true? Well, technically, yes. She does not have a husband. But that’s also not the whole story. Unfortunately for her (and us), God always knows the whole story. So Jesus says to her, “I know. You’ve actually had five husbands, and you’re not even married to the man you’re living with now” (vv. 17-18).

Jesus’s direct and unapologetic response to her lifestyle choices is so uncomfortable and awkward for her that she brushes it off—basically pretends she didn’t her him—and immediately changes the subject and asks him for his opinion on a controversy about worship: “Well… um… What do you think about this whole ‘Mount Gerzim controversy?’” (see v. 20).

Have you ever been there? I know I have.

The Spirit of God speaks to me. He weighs on my conscience. He points right at some sinful choices I’ve been making. And I know he’s right. I know I’m guilty. I know I’ve been caught, but I think to myself, “Maybe if I can quickly change the subject, God will just drop it.” So, God says, “My friend, talk to me about this anger I’m seeing in your heart.” And I say, “Well… um… Don’t you think we should sing more hymns in church, God?” Or he asks me about the way I’ve been using my money, and I say, “Well… you know… What’s with these hurricanes I’ve been seeing on the news, God?” Or he points at your kids and says, “Talk to me about why you’re not setting aside enough time to love and encourage and disciple them.” And you shift in your seat and say, “Yeah… So… What’s the deal with the Boston Marathon bombings? How come you didn’t step in?”

We become so uncomfortable when he know someone else knows about the secret (or not-so-secret) sins of our hearts. And the worst news of all is that the One who cares most about these sins and pays the most attention to them is actually the One who can see all of them all the time.

But here’s the good news: We do not have to be afraid of these conversations with our Father.

God always has our best interests in mind when he raises these issues with us. Just as the best of parents have their children’s best interests in mind when we engage them in conversation about their disobedience. The best of parents bring these things up not to condemn and not to chide, but to shape and disciple and to shepherd their children’s hearts for the good of their children. For their joy and peace and happiness. And God the Father is the best of parents.

He loves us more than we can possibly imagine. And he wants to give us the water will become in us “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (v. 14). He wants us to have life, and have it fully. May we never hide from him. May we look him in the eyes as he talks with us about our sin, helps us understand and fight it, and offers the forgiveness and cleaning that his son freely bought for us.

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