Essentials for the Journey
Week 5 of Lent – Water: Enjoying Refreshment

Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’
—John 4:13-15

Written by Pastor Rushan, Senior Minister
In the scripture passage on Sunday we heard that story from John’s Gospel where Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. The story is of a conversation between Jesus of Nazareth and an unnamed woman from Samaria. This story is often preached from the perspective of Jesus – that he is being compassionate to this woman, who in fact he’s not supposed to be talking to – because Jews don’t associate with Samaritans in 1st century Palestine. Also that he takes her seriously, listens to her, and in the end even debates with her. This is unheard of for a Jewish teacher, a rabbi figure, to debate matters of faith with a woman – let alone a Samaritan woman. So therefore, we in our own lives, are called to follow that example and associate ourselves with people on the edge of society.

This well-known story of the woman of Samaria is, I think, a story of vulnerability and weariness. The popular understanding of this passage is that this is a sinful woman in need of Jesus’ forgiveness. While this may indeed be the case, it is odd that Jesus makes no mention of her sin or of her need for forgiveness.

Much more obvious is the bone-numbing weariness of both Jesus and the woman. Jesus had ‘toiled’ his way to Samaria from Judea in the heat of the sun and is exhausted. The woman, however, has a weariness of a completely different kind. She has had five husbands and now lives with someone else. What we don’t know is whether this was due to something she had done wrong as we are not told in the text. What we do know though of that period is that women in the first century could not divorce their husbands so she may have been more wronged than wrong.

Jesus may have been in need of refreshment but it turns out that the Samaritan woman is even more in need of it than Jesus is: Jesus’ exhaustion is temporary and physical, whereas the woman’s exhaustion is lifelong and both emotional & spiritual.

And it is into this context that Jesus speaks of a promise of deep, eternally lasting refreshment. Jesus offers us constant, eternal, living and life-giving refreshment. As with all the other spiritual essentials explored over the last several weeks, the challenge each one of us faces is to ask ourselves whether we have accepted and packed this essential for the journey or whether, because of distraction, busyness or a range of other reasons, we have left this essential behind us somewhere along the way.