Did anyone else see the story coming out of China this week? Last Saturday a 12 year old girl was flying her kite and whilst her focus was in the sky she stumbled and fell into a well. Having established her head was above water the emergency services were called. A fireman descended down into the well but could not complete the rescue after 3 attempts. It took them 8 hours to systematically unearth the ground around the well and take away brick by brick the structure so that they could successfully get to the child and release her. The structure was unimportant compared to the person inside it and resulted in a happy outcome for a playtime gone wrong. You can read about it here.
As I read it I couldn’t help but think about the woman at the well in John 4.
When you think about a well do you conjure up the imagine of the stones housing the pulley system that holds the bucket, with a little thatched roof? You know like a wishing well? I do. The focus is on the structure of the well rather than the water that is inside it: the container not the contents.
As the conversation between the woman and Jesus unfolds He’s continually drawing her attention away from outside structure and formats to actually reveal His very Presence to her as a spring inside her. Jesus had given this woman a promise: ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Straight away Jesus isn’t on the container but He’s explaining about the contents. He’s not talking about a well outside but a spring of water inside her bringing Life.
What I notice is during the conversation Jesus is busy digging around all her structures of places she thinks she will get ‘water’ to refresh her. He wants to reveal that it is Himself, not the well, that is important. He wants to reveal Himself to her as a spring.
So what structures does she, and us, try before we see Jesus for who He is?
- Relationships -He asks her to go call her husband and it’s a question that reveals her broken attempts at finding the refreshment of acceptance in another human person. This woman is thirsty for love. This woman hoped in the institute of marriage as a container to meet her needs but clearly, for whatever reason, the contents of those relationship failed her. Drawing her attention to the inadequate experiences she has had makes her vulnerable. It also shows us that our relationships, better or worse than hers, are just one place that we go to meet our needs. Another relationship, however, intimate, isn’t going to meet our deepest need. We’re busy using a water pot trying to draw out what we need the whole time. It leaves us thirsty.
- Religion -The woman tries to deflect the question and brings up religion. Is it this mountain or that which is the right place? Are we to please God in this location or that one? If I do it this way will He bless me? Will I be out of His will if I go that way? Always with the right and the wrong. This fits that doesn’t. Its the rule keeping and the works of earning His love and pleasure. We do the same. Even when you hear great grace teaching we still fall into making it about how much we prayed, gave, fasted, believed or applied His teachings. Our focus becomes what we need to create to contain the goodness of God in our life. Still using the water pot to draw out what we think we need to ‘do.’ This leaves us frustrated and thirsty too.
- Reverence -Jesus leads her on that rule keeping religion needs to make way for worship. He points out that people are worshiping what they do not know. People at that time went to the temple to make an offering or sacrifice. Here Jesus explains about worshiping in Spirit and truth. To worship God involves every part of our lives given over to a deep respect to hold Him in the highest regard in all that we do. How can you worship like that if you don’t know Him? That’s a life style not a visit! Fast forward to today and we can fall into worship being singing songs of adoration. Be honest, we’ve all walked away from a church service and commented at least once, ‘ well the worship didn’t do it for me, the singers were a bit off’ or ‘ the music was way to loud and I couldn’t connect with God.’ Of course instruments and melody add to our worship immensely but again we are trying to fill up our water pot to refresh us for a limited time of singing – leaving us thirsty again for more.
Jesus is busy taking away brick by brick any places of a ‘well’ that she has tried to go to to draw refreshment and fulfillment from, so that He can get to the important Person. Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” He reveals Himself. The well or meeting place isn’t important. The outside structure isn’t important: it’s the Person of Jesus – I AM – that is the refreshment and fulfillment of all that we need. He is the living water – Jesus is the well of water. He is the inner spring that bubbles up into Life. It’s our union with Him alone that refreshes us so we are no longer thirsty, ever again. Jesus is the well because it’s not the container but the substance of who He is and that He gives Himself to us that matters.
Having grasped the truth of this the woman leaves her water pot. Very symbolic that she is no longer going to need to draw from any well because she has the Spring -Jesus Himself – in her. I love that as she goes into the village and the invitation she offers isn’t ‘come to the well’ She’s says ‘Come, see a man’ She’s got it straight away that it’s not about the how to, or the location: it’s about the Person. I’ve heard lots about Christ in me the hope of glory but this woman just gets it by revelation!
Imagine for a moment: have you ever been with someone who is in a new relationship or getting married soon? They talk about their partner a lot. Understandably. This woman’s been married 5 times and living with someone else. She has bound to have spoken to lots of people over the years about the men she’s met and the impact and expectations of that relationship. The village have heard her before and could have easily been predicted to ignore her going off on one about the latest man she’d met. But this time there must have been something different about her for them to pay enough attention to go and see Jesus. Christ in her the hope of Glory was already shining out of her. Jesus Himself in her drawing others to come see and experience Him for themselves. Jesus Himself, the living waters inside her were already bubbling up into life for her and others. Incredible!
I read lately that we are ‘not in the day of church but in the day of Jesus.’ What I understand from that is we have to be aware not to make religion and the organisation of a relevant church meeting most important. The focus becomes the well as a structure to draw refreshment from in being connected to others and practicing our faith projects whilst singing songs. The day of Jesus keeps our focus solely and wholly on who He is and we live our lives abiding whilst He springs up as Life to us, in us, and through us.
Jesus is the well because Jesus is the Spring. We are the container, His Body, that has the Spring, the Person, who is offering the living water inside us. When we meet people we can give them a drink! It’s our union and connection to Him that is Life. It’s His faithfulness to us that is the foundation of our faith in Him. It’s our reverence to put Him first that means we worship all day everyday so that His life shows out in all we do.
I’ll finish with a story that happened this week that illustrated this all to me. I had a busy day on Wednesday and drove My husband and daughter to the airport. On the way home I stopped at the supermarket only to finally get home and realise I had forgotten all the important items I actually needed. So back I go to the supermarket. At the till the lady in front of me is taking her time. She’s clearly having a bad day and had lost her car keys so walked, was busy changing her mind about items she did or didn’t want. Then when it’s time to pay she can’t find her card and has to void the whole thing. I thought for a moment to bless her by paying for the shopping (so we could all get on really!) and God whispers, ‘ take her home and chat’ She’s relieved at the offer and gets in my car. During the 5 mile round trip She’s busy chatting away about her situation and why she’s frazzled. Recently separated in her marriage she’s disappointed to be starting again.She gets her shopping and I’m happy to drive her home again. All the time I can hear Jesus saying,’ just listen.’ As we pull up outside her home, she turns to me and suddenly says,’ you’re a vicar aren’t you and spiritual will you pray with me as I need to get my life on track!’ I’m loving that this wasn’t structured or about where or how we met but Jesus was drawing this woman and wanted to reveal Himself. I explain I’m not religious but I do know Jesus and He makes the difference, the only difference. As I prayed I asked that Jesus would make Himself real to her and promised to pop in and see her again.
That’s Jesus Himself springing up to bring life! That’s the Well doing His work.