‘…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.’
John 4:14 (NIVUK)
I find it fascinating that John chapter 4 follows on from John chapter 3. Now you might think that’s obvious, what else would you expect? Tell us something we don’t know. But it’s not the fact chapter 3 is followed by chapter 4 that I find so interesting, it’s the two characters that are juxtaposed in these chapters.
In chapter 3, Jesus talks to Nicodemus and in chapter 4 he encounters a woman at the well. They are meetings of total contrast. They couldn’t be more different:
- One is a man, the other a woman.
- One is a Pharisee, a religious person of great standing, the other a Samaritan, a religious no-hoper.
- One is a moral and an upright man, the other is an immoral woman, regarded as a social pariah.
- Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, this woman met him in the heat of the day.
- And, of course, Nicodemus has a name, and this woman is just known as the woman at the well.
Everything about these two individuals is poles apart, except for one thing: they both have a thirst. They are both searching for the meaning of life. And they are here in John’s gospel in chapters 3 and 4, side by side, to demonstrate to us that whoever we are, Nicodemus or this woman, religious or not religious, moral or immoral, respected or ostracised, we are all in need of something that only Jesus can give us.
Some people are aware of this need, like Nicodemus who came to Jesus, and others are not aware of it, like this woman who was going about her daily business when Jesus came to her. But whether we recognise it or not, we are all searching for something to satisfy our deepest needs and longings.
These two biblical characters demonstrate that this satisfaction cannot be found in religious conformity and respectability, nor in a liberal, immoral lifestyle. Anyone who drinks water from those wells is doomed to become thirsty again very quickly (John 4:13).
The solution for both Nicodemus and the woman at the well is to receive from Jesus what he is offering and to realise that he is the only one who can satisfy our souls: ‘…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.’ (v.14).
This is where everyone will quench their thirst and never be thirsty again. This is the offer Jesus gives to all people, whether they be Israel’s teacher or a despised Samaritan. May our response to this offer be the same as this woman’s: ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’ (v.15).
Father, thank you for showing us that Jesus is the only one who can truly satisfy our souls. Please help us to keep our eyes fixed on him. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.