October 2022

'The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life’

John 4.14 (NRSV)

Jesus is in Samaria, at a town called Sychar.   Jacob’s Well was there.   The chances are that the well was covered by a stone and Jesus sits down on the stone. He is tired – tired from travelling in the heat of the day; tired physically; and tired from his ministry to so many people in need.

A well for the Jews symbolised the Law – and for the Greeks it symbolised Wisdom.   The symbolism and the whole history of the well would have come into the mind of Jesus.  It is Jacob’s well. Jacob, who cheated his brother, deceived his father and later robbed his father-in-law.   At the same time, Jacob was genuinely searching for God and, you will remember, wrestled with the angel through the night.   The well was Jacob’s and he gave it to his son, Joseph.   The well today is an enclosed Christian shrine – but then – imagine the scene, call to mind the history and the associations with Jacob and Joseph.

They were both human, flawed men – and yet God used both for his purposes in the world of that time.   God flows through the flawed men and women he has chosen to be with him – through Peter, Judas, Matthew, Mary Magdalen.   Jesus becomes aware that he is himself the well.  It is out of himself and the depths of his being that there will come living water, the Spirit and the presence of God.

Almost uncannily, John records that it is about the sixth hour that Jesus sits by the well – on Good Friday it is about the sixth hour that Jesus cries out on the Cross that he is thirsty.  

The Samaritan woman approaches.  The conversation that follows reaches its climax as Jesus says that anyone who drinks from the well of Jacob, from the history of his people, from the past, from the law or from wisdom, will be thirsty again.   But anyone who drinks from the water that Jesus gives will never be thirsty again.

The fullness of grace that had its first mention in the prologue to the Gospel, now becomes concrete in the image of the living water which wells up to eternal life.