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Jesus answered, 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.
Earlier in this chapter, Jesus is met at Jacob’s well by a Samaritan woman, who has come to draw water. How very beautifully Jesus overleaps the various barriers that separated him from this woman. He was a rabbi, and according to the rabbinical law, rabbis were instructed to never talk to a woman in public—not even to their own wives or sisters. In fact the rabbinical law said, It is better to burn the law than to give it to a woman. In that culture women were regarded as totally unable to understand complicated subjects like theology and religion.
But notice how Jesus treats her. He could judge something about her from the circumstances of her being at this well. Although there was another well in the village, as a moral outcast she was forced to come all the way out to this well, half a mile away. Meeting her, our Lord understood this to be a sign from his Father that here was one of those sinners whom he came to call to repentance. He himself said on one occasion, I did not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners (Mt 9:13). He probably knew more about this woman’s history than this introduction suggests, because later he tells her some facts about herself that he evidently knew. He had been through this small village several times, and had probably heard something about her. Now to have her meet him at the well is to him an indication that God the Father wanted to reach out to her.
Jesus says to her, I am not talking about the water in the well. Drink of that water and you will thirst again. (She knew what he meant. She had been coming to that well for years.) But I will give you living water, and the one who drinks of the water I give will never thirst. He did not, of course, mean that one could take one drink of living water and never again feel a thirst of soul, any more than one could take one drink of any kind of physical, literal water and never feel thirsty again. What he means is what we Americans have discovered in our own homes. How do we keep from thirsting? We have water piped in, available to us all the time, so that when we feel even a little thirsty we take a drink of it. This is what Jesus means here. The water he would give would be available constantly so that when one was thirsty one could drink immediately.
Many Christians never seem to learn this truth. They never realize that there is a place where their inner thirst—their sense of restlessness, their desire for more than what they have—can be met instantly.
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Jesus goes on to make clear that it is going to be from within: The water I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. He means, of course, that the Spirit which he will impart is a life-giving Spirit, that as one drinks of that Spirit one experiences the quality of life which is called, in the Scriptures, eternal life.
That means far more than everlasting life. It means refreshing, invigorating, exciting life; life that has the qualities of love and joy and peace about it. When you know you lack these qualities, if you then have drunk of the water that Jesus gives you it can immediately slake your thirst—again and again and again. It is a beautiful picture: a well springing up to eternal life.
Lord, thank you that you have revealed to me the fountain within, the place of significance, the place of renewed love, of cleansing, refreshing, washing again. Teach me to drink frequently all through the day, as many times as I need, of this refreshing fountain. Fill me so that I will not have to run after empty cisterns and follow after the misleading philosophies of the world around me. Let me drink deeply of One who has come; who has proven himself in my own life to be the Savior of the world.
Our soul’s deepest thirst is for God himself. When His Spirit dwells within He is a fountain of spontaneous and continual supply of living water. Are we drinking of Him and sharing the joy with others?