When Jesus and His disciples came to the Samaritan city of Sychar, the Lord sat down by the well which serviced that city. As He waited for the disciples, who had gone into the city to buy food, a woman of that city came out to draw water. He asked her to give Him a drink, and then engaged her in a spiritual discussion. The record of this event is found in Jn. 4:5-42.
As He often did, the Lord used a mundane part of daily life as a springboard to teach a spiritual lesson. In this case, it was His request for a drink of water. The woman was surprised that He, being a Jew, would dare to ask a Samaritan woman for a drink. Jews typically had no dealings with Samaritans, and teachers did not speak to women in public. Part of the Lord’s mission in coming to the earth, however, was to break down the barriers between races and classes by means of His sacrificial death on the cross (Eph. 2:14-16). His conversation with the Samaritan woman was a first step in bringing these barriers down.
When the woman expressed surprise that the Lord would ask her for a drink of water, He replied in terms of spiritual importance He said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (Jn. 4:10). The woman, as people often did, failed to grasp the Lord’s meaning. She supposed He was speaking about giving her water from the well at which He was sitting.
In the ancient world, the term “living water” was generally used to describe running water as opposed to standing water drawn from a cistern or well. Living water, in this sense, was considered superior because it came from a flowing source that would not be expected to run dry. Those who were so fortunate as to dig a well that struck an underground spring or river were deemed richly blessed.
The Lord, however, was not speaking about literal water. He was talking about eternal life. We see this in the next statement He made to the Samaritan woman, in vs. 13 & 14. He said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Even though the well in Sychar was deep and provided abundant water for the residents of that city, it was nothing compared to the gift the Lord would provide.
When Jesus went to the cross, the blood that He shed paid the price for the sins of the world from the beginning of time to the end of time. It was a perfect sacrifice that once and for all provided the atonement that mankind so sorely needs. Like water standing at the bottom of a deep well, though, this gift is of no use to us until we do what the Lord commanded us in order to receive its benefit.
This gift is freely offered to all who are willing to receive it, but we only receive it by obeying the gospel. The Lord said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). When we are immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, we receive eternal life. When we obey His commands He gives us the living water of which He spoke to the Samaritan woman. Then, as faithful children of God, who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, we have within us this well of water springing up to eternal life that sustains us all the way to the home prepared for us in heaven.