A hole in the ground

It had been a long morning of travel for Jesus and His friends. Near the town of Sychar, the disciples said “We’re gonna go get some food. It’s lunch time.”

“Go ahead. I’ll stay here,” replied Jesus.

All alone, Jesus sat down on the stone foundation of the old well and looked around. The shade of the old roof over the well afforded some relief from the sun. From His Father came a strong sense that He came here for a reason, but as He surveyed the countryside, he saw no one.

But yes—he saw a small figure coming down the road from the town. It was a woman; you could tell by the way she dressed.

She walked up to the well carrying a water jug. She saw the stranger sitting there, and glanced at him as she set her water jug on the ground. He was evidently traveling, and he was a Jew. That was reason enough to ignore him.

As she lowered the rope into the well, the stranger spoke. “Could I have a drink, ma’am?” She eyed him coolly. She had known a lot of men, and some of them were lazy.

She turned to face Him. “You are a Jew, and you’re asking me for a favor?” She felt puzzled – there was something difficult to explain about the way he looked at and through her. Who could this fellow be?

He replied, “If you knew who you were talking with, you would ask me for water that is alive. And I would give you some.”

She paused, the breeze blowing her hair slightly. She had known a lot of men in life and some of them were boastful. “Sir, this well is pretty deep, and you don’t even have a rope or a bucket. Where do you get this– living water of yours?”  She frowned, “You must not know your geography. The great patriarch Jacob dug this well and drank from it. I suppose you’re greater than him?!”

Jesus looked at her with his riveting eyes. “Lots of people have drunk this water,” He said, glancing towards the hole. And it wears off pretty fast. AND THEY BECOME THIRSTY AGAIN. Those who drink my water will be satisfied for life.”

She decided to call his bluff. “I’ll take some then. It will save me a lot of time in the future, not having to come here for more water.”

Jesus said, “Go get your husband and come back. I’ll wait.”

The woman stiffened. This man really was a stranger, and for that reason alone she could forgive Him for the knife that He had just jabbed into her soul. She had known a lot of men and some of them were harsh and condemning. She started to answer and stopped. Her eyes searched his face for some hint of ridicule – no he was just a stranger, and wanted to do something nice for both her and her husband. Problem was– she had no husband– only a long storied past that she wished she could be free from. She desperately wanted this uncomfortable conversation to stop. Her answer was clipped, “I don’t have a husband.” She hoped that ended the conversation …

The persistent stranger spoke. “It is true. You don’t have a husband presently. You have had a collection of them, and are now shacking up with someone else.”

These words nailed this woman to the ground.  If she felt uncomfortable before, she was frozen solid now. Time stood still as the sword of truth laid her soul wide open. She was glad for once that no one else was around.  Then it happened.  Out of this cloud of indignation and embarrassment rose a column of reason that said, “How does He know this?”

“You must be inspired by God,” was all she could say. Then she thought of a question that had troubled her ever since she was a little girl. All her life she had heard the arguments about the proper place to worship. This question defined her as a Samaritan, competing as they were with the Jews in Jerusalem. People that she knew and respected insisted that Samaria was the place where God was focused. It had convinced her that all that was needed to please God was the right location. But worshipping in the right place and drinking from this special well had become an empty tradition, unable to purge her guilty conscience. If this man knew about her moral failure without anyone telling him, he might know how to fix the guilt she felt. She had known a lot of men, but never anyone like this man. A huge desire for peace and forgiveness welled up in her.

So she posed this question to Jesus. “Where is the right location to worship?”  She leaned forward slightly to hear the answer.

Jesus fixed his truthful gentle eyes on her.  “Woman, true worship is not about having the right place; it is about having the right heart.”

How is it with you?  Has your ecclesiastical tradition become just another hole in the ground that sustains your existence but hinders eternal life? Do you have a connection to Adventist heritage (complete with vespers & Grillers™) that offers a few warm fuzzies but lacks the fire of divine conviction? What are you carrying with you that burdens your conscience; what regrets and fears have you allowed to define you?  Let me say this– that’s not who you really are. 

  • God is looking for you (John 4:23). 
  • His Word cuts into your soul (vv. 18-19).
  • You look up towards heaven, and say, “I need a Savior” (v. 25).
  • He reveals Himself and accepts you (v. 26).
  • Your life is filled with purpose. Your priorities change (v. 28).
  • You will help people find Him (v. 30).

You will find your highest delight in doing His bidding; you will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.