There's a place in France that draws people from all over the world who believe there’s something in the water. Searching and sometimes desperate people go there for spiritual blessing, forgiveness and healing. Whatever the truth is about that small town in the foothills of the Pyrenees, it's very big business. 5 million people descend on it every year and stay in one of the 270 hotels. I'll leave you to do the maths. It's quite a contrast from the way Jesus interacted with ordinary people. He never asked them to jump through hoops, engage in special rituals or go to religious places. In fact, the opposite is true, he went looking for them. You won’t find another religion or belief system on planet earth that talks about a God who is in anyway interested in relationship with us.
A few years ago I was in a place called Rota on the south coast of Spain running on event with a large outdoor stage. It was very hot and I went to the supermarket to buy an electric fan. I took it to the checkout and then noticed an old lady standing behind me who looked very poor. She asked me in Spanish how much the fan cost and my friend told her it was €15 and her head dropped. Quick as a flash I sensed God leading me to buy her a fan the same as mine. I went back into the shop, picked up a second fan and gave it to that lady.
She was very emotional and so was the checkout assistant, it was quite a moment. She put the fan under her arm and we watched her as she walked out into the street. I didn’t expect to see her again but I guess God had other ideas and she turned up that evening at the event. I was telling the crowd from the stage about Jesus and the particular the story that I’m going to tell you today. She came to the front and we prayed for her. The following day a few other people came having heard the story. It was like a little re-enactment of the day Jesus met a woman at a well.
First, let me tell you something about wells because there are basically three different types. A cistern well, not the top of a toilet but a container of stagnant water we’ll. The second is a shaft well, basically a deep hole drilled into the ground that taps into a wellspring. Then there’s the third type, an artesian well, something very special and the best kind of all. The definition of an Artesian well is an unending and naturally filtered source of pure water that seeps to the surface and appears to defy logic. So let's wind the clock back 2,000 years and transport ourselves 2,000 miles to the hot dusty streets of 1st century Jerusalem. We're going to find out what happened when Jesus visited a famous old watering hole and had a so called chance meeting with a woman from the local community.
The temperature of religious hatred is rising on the streets of the city as Jesus leaves with his disciples via the back gate. He walks north through Samaria en route to Galilee. Some people say he took a diversion but that's not true. It was most direct route, it just wasn’t the route he should have taken. The well-trodden path for people like Jesus was through the valley on the banks of the Jordan River, circumventing the Samarian border. You see the Samaritans were the enemy and there was a lot of hostility and bad blood. Same old story of a turf war between neighbouring communities and a dose of racism, an ancient feud and some religious bigotry thrown in for good measure.
But Jesus didn’t go up the Jordan Valley, he broke the rules and headed straight over the Samaritan border. Jesus still goes out of his way, in some people’s opinion the wrong way, ignoring religious regulations to reach those who need to know God as father. Maybe he’s heading in your direction today? After 30 miles, Jesus arrives at an ancient well. The travelling party that have made this trip with him go into the town for lunch leaving Jesus at the well to chat to a woman from the village who is drawing water in the middle of the day, which, incidentally, was not the normal routine.
Usually the women of the village would go together in the early morning and the early evening to avoid the heat. So it would seem that Jesus is in the wrong place but at the right time and the woman is in the right place but at the wrong time. So how does Jesus open up the conversation with this woman he has apparently walked 6 hours to talk to? Shes from the despised neighbouring region, has got a lot going on and a lot going wrong with her life, that’s probably the reason she is there alone. This is what Jesus says to her. Can you get me a drink please? That’s it, that’s the big opening line, hardly the words of someone who has come to tell her all the things she’s done wrong, all of which she already knows.
The woman said to Jesus, You’re a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink, for Jews do not associate with Samaritans? 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. Sir, the woman said, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Then Jesus gets to the heart of the matter with this lady. Go call your husband and come back. Now the conversation goes weird. She starts to get shifty because there's a story. It seems she's had a few fellas and she's a bit guarded
We don’t know why she had several blokes. Maybe she's been widowed more than once or maybe the relationships have gone wrong and she’s at the watering hole on her own because she’s been rejected or maybe she’s got a reputation? She arrives back to the village and tells everyone that she’s just met a man who told her everything she’d ever done. It's a crazy thing to say, Jesus didn’t tell her everything she’d ever done, he hardly told her anything. He simply used the physical picture of a well to point to the cry of the human heart for a wellspring that meets the real need.
Jesus said, everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. The water I give them will become an artesian spring of water welling up to eternal life. A source of life giving water that meets the deepest needs of the human heart for acceptance, forgiveness, peace and hope. Jesus walked away from the crowd, ignored the rules of race, class, gender, culture and religion to bring hope to one person. He did it for me, he did it for a lady I met in Spain and he can do it for you too. God wants to meet you at the well.
One of the old patriarchal Jewish prophets called Jeremiah spoke these words from God. My people have walked out on me, the fountain of fresh flowing water. Then they have dug their own wells that leak like sieves. If that’s you today, open up your heart to God.