Jesus answered her, “If you knew the Gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. – John 4:10
“Those who have ears to hear, hear this story. Those who have eyes to see, see this scene. Anything can happen at a well.” – John Shea, STORIES
Today, while reading the Gospel Lesson for this coming Sunday – John 4:5-42, a story, The Woman at the Well, by John Shea came to mind. It is a wonderful story of the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman who comes to the well, alone, for the day’s water. She didn’t come with the others because she was living with a man not her husband and had already been married to five. She was considered a sinner which caused her to be ostracized by the other women. She didn’t want the humiliation of going to the well with them.
I wanted John Shea’s story be my Friday Meditation, but it is four pages long, over 1600 words, and I don’t have permission to include it here. Bummer. It is a beautiful story. However, since it impressed itself upon me this morning so strongly, I should pay attention.
She could see him sitting on a ledge of the well from the distance. It seemed as if he was waiting for her. He appeared to be a traveler, not a Samaritan, and she considered turning around to go back to the village. But, of course, he could catch her if he wanted to. Although she was panicky, she could tell he was a Jew and would probably walk away as she approached. If not, she knew how to make him leave. She had practice.
“I’m thirsty,” he said.
Well, it was certainly hot enough. “Who isn’t”, she said. But he asks her to give him a drink. Jews don’t ask for a drink from a Samaritan, let alone a Samaritan woman, so she thinks he is probably not right in the head, but she draws water and gives him one. He says to her, “If you would ask me, I would give you living water.” I’m not going to relay the whole story but you might want to review it again for yourself. Or pay close attention when it is read on Sunday at church.
Shea’s story is such a tender love story. If you ever get a chance to read it, do. There is a bit of word sparing between the two when she asks Jesus how he plans to fetch such water since he has no bucket. Jesus draws her in. He says, “Yokes and buckets are always the problem, aren’t they?” He asks about her husband, says he knows that she has had five and this man is not her husband. Here it comes. Now he will insult her. Just as she was starting to enjoy herself and feel somewhat at ease. But he doesn’t. They spar some more and she says, “You are very hard to get rid of,” but she is not sure that she wants him to go. “Everyone says that,” he replies.
She tries one more time. By talking about the temple, he will finally spurn me, she thinks. But he caught hold of her hand and said, “God is not on the mountain, but in your thirst. God is not in the Temple, but in the scream of your spirit, and it cries to me. Ask me, ask me for a drink.”
Who is this man? Not just another man. “I don’t ask.” She said, but…such yearning… “Even without a bucket—if you ask me, I will give you living water.” (Some of this is in John Shea’s words and some in mine.) Finally, she whispered, “Give me a drink.” He does and after some tender words back and forth between them, she leaves and runs to the village where she relates the story to the villagers. She couldn’t wait to tell it.
I am always changed by an encounter with God. Always. We all are. This story speaks to the hungering deep in me. Maybe that is why it is recorded in the Bible. So many times, I need a fresh drink of living water. Jesus wants to give it. According to Shea, and in my own experience, he woos me. He woos us. He doesn’t go away and he doesn’t give up trying to draw us to him, into his arms, so that he can refresh us. Yokes and buckets are so often the problem, but Jesus is so very hard to get rid of. And I’m so grateful.