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4 Jesus had to go through Samaria. 5 He came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, which was near the land Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there. Jesus was tired from his journey, so he sat down at the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.” 8 His disciples had gone into the city to buy him some food.
9 The Samaritan woman asked, “Why do you, a Jewish man, ask for something to drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other.)
10 Jesus responded, “If you recognized God’s gift and who is saying to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you living water.”
11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket and the well is deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are you? He gave this well to us, and he drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!”
27 Just then, Jesus’ disciples arrived and were shocked that he was talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 The woman put down her water jar and went into the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done! Could this man be the Christ?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to see Jesus.
35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘Four more months and then it’s time for harvest’? Look, I tell you: open your eyes and notice that the fields are already ripe for the harvest.
39 Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s word when she testified, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.”
Jesus did not physically have to go through Samaria (verse 4). In his day, Jews looked down on Samaritans, even hated them. The shortest way from Jerusalem to Galilee was through Samaria, but most Jews chose to travel through Perea, east of the Jordan River, to avoid the Samaritans. Jesus made a purposeful spiritual choice to go through Samaria. In stopping to drink from Jacob’s well, he was defying the hatred between Jews and Samaritans, opposing one of his day’s injustices.
Lord Jesus, keep me from chasing convenience and an easier life. Make me willing to go out of my way for the sake of your world. Amen.
A few years ago, I went kayaking in Colorado on a gorgeous fall day. The friend I was with had never kayaked and sat in the front of the two-person boat so I could steer from the back. We received our instructions and were told that during the time we’d rented the kayak, we should be able to get around one side of the lake, to a small island and back to the marina.
As we set out on Lake Dillon, the sky was mostly clear, though you could see the smoke from a far-off wildfire among the scattering of white, fluffy clouds in the bright blue sky. The water was still–it was quite literally smooth sailing as we neared the first turn to go toward the island that was our intended destination.
To be clear, this destination was suggested, not required. We had all the information we needed to choose our own path and keep our kayak safely out of the way of other boats. We had two hours on the water on that gorgeous day for this new adventure of a tandem kayak. We could have gone a variety of ways, but since our boat guide had defined this “goal” for me while we were getting our life jackets on, I’d made it a personal challenge to be met.
I thought we were doing pretty well for two people who had never kayaked together before, making decent time as we rounded a sharp turn to head toward the island. As we did, we met an instant change in the wind patterns. The previously smooth sailing turned into something that felt more like it belonged on a reality TV competition. Choppy water rippling in waves at the front of the boat showed the strong head wind we had just taken on. I immediately shifted into high gear and started paddling harder.
My friend and I hadn’t really defined our goals for this afternoon of boating. I continued to paddle harder and harder with fierce determination, while my friend’s face got splashed with very cold water (the wind also blew water up the side of the boat on me at the back). It was October, so the water and wind were pretty chilly at over 9,000 feet elevation.
This had opposite effects on the two of us. My instinct was to fight the water, try to overpower the wind and get to that island “goal” at all costs. Completely confused by my sudden level of determination, and likely annoyed by my obliviousness to his personal discomfort with wind and water in his face, he asked more than once why we were continuing to go toward the island. I’m pretty sure he’d totally stopped paddling when he asked, a little louder, “It was so nice and relaxing back there. Why wouldn’t we just turn around and boat on that part of the lake?”
I’m pretty sure I yelled something like, “But we can make it.” I continued to strenuously paddle against the wind with minimal return on my exertion. He thoughtfully waited a moment before replying, which gave me time to realize that I’d assumed my goal of making it was also his. Clearly it was not.
So, against my nature, I stopped paddling and let the wind turn us around so we could paddle back to calm waters. Honestly, I didn’t do it with the best attitude initially, still wanting to prove to myself that I could have made it.
Back to the other side of that sharp turn, the water was smooth and calm again. I was no longer chasing something I didn’t actually need to chase in the first place. I was able to enjoy the beauty of the mountains and the reflection of the clouds on the glassy surface of the water.
As I read through today’s Scripture, I nearly laughed out loud thinking about the number of times my own plans, especially my own self-imposed stubbornness, get in the way of what God so clearly and graciously sets before me. I often tell people that I am far too serious, but in all reality, that probably really means I need to focus less on achievement or being task-driven and more on the simplicity of whatever is right in front of me.
I am grateful for friends who remind me life is far more of what God has intended when I strive less, go towards the calm and don’t trip over my own ego in the process. I’m also grateful that God is rich in mercy, generous with gifts and plans for good things as we live our lives.
* Click here to see a 5-minute clip from the superb 2003 film The Gospel of John (using the text of John from The Good News Bible) which brings the story in John 4 alive.