Studies in John's Gospel -- Part 6
Anatomy of An Encounter
By: A.J. Higgins, M.D.
Passage: John 4
Every form of art has its master, those whose work stands apart by its beauty and grandeur. Music, sculpture, art, literature can all boast names whose mention summon from our minds images of beauty mixed at times with an almost awe inspiring quality.
John chapter four, however, reveals to us the master of a different art. It is the art of healing the broken hearted, of satisfying the hungering soul. We are introduced to One who is able to do what all the kings’ horses and all the kings’ men couldn’t do: to pick up the pieces of a broken life and create something new.
Picture the scene for a moment. Beneath a hot eastern sky, a lone figure sits by a well. He is the very same One who, in preincarnate glory sat, "upon the circle of the earth" (Isa. 40:22). But now He’s seated, thirsty, hungry, and weary by the well. From the distance a woman approaches bearing a water pot. She has come at noon to avoid the other women who come in the cool of the evening. She would do anything to avoid the looks, stares and whispers of the other women. Today, however, her path is crossed by a Man she has never met before.
She has come to satisfy her natural thirst; He has come to satisfy her inner thirst. Her task involves simply lowering her bucket and drawing; His task is reaching into her spiritual being. The Lord speaks to her but seven times during a brief conversation. The totality of His words would scarcely fill a page, yet their ultimate effect is to fill her with joy.
"She came to satisfy her natural thirst; He came to satisfy her inner thirst."
He begins by gaining her attention with a brief request: "Give me to drink" (vs. 7). She remonstrates with surprise that He being a Jew would ask water from a hated Samaritan. She thought the level of their conversation was simply a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman. Be He was not merely a Jewish Man.
He informs her that is she really knew Who He is (not only a Jewish man) and the gift of God that He could give, she would have asked of Him. She still is only able to comprehend these words in a natural setting. She looks at a deep well, at His lack of a bucket, and at the history of the well. Certainly the man before her could not be greater than Jacob who gave the well.
From gaining her ear and her mind, the Lord now moves skillfully to engage her heart: "whoever drinks of the water I shall give him shall never thirst." The artist has struck a responsive chord. She immediately grasps at this. Her thought and imagination so earth bound can think of nothing but literal water. She has no thought of the spiritual or eternal. But something more than the curiosity and heart must be touched. Blind emotionalism was not the soil in which Christ planted the seed of life. God has never worked that way, nor is He doing so today.
" whoever drinks of the water I shall give shall never thirst."
Now the master must strike the deep and sonorous chord which will echo through the depths of her being. "Go call your husband and come hither" (vs. 16). She owns briefly that she has no husband. The Lord follows with words that reveal that in His omniscience He knew all about her. "You’ve had five husbands and he whom you now have is not your husband." (vs. 18). Her past and present are out in the open. He has been skillfully moving toward reaching her conscience. The major theme of His work has now been played: man’s sin and God’s remedy. God is in the business of reaching consciences before He can satisfy hearts and save souls.
"God is in the business of reaching consciences before He can satisfy hearts."
She tries to evade the painful revelation by resorting to the age old hiding place of religion, but it is too late. Her sinful life has risen up and confronted her. Finding neither rest nor refuge, she owns her need of the same Savior Messiah that Israel was awaiting (vs. 25). Now she is spiritually ready to receive the same revelation that Moses received at the bush; for she is in the presence of the great "I AM" (vs. 26).
The expert healer of souls has accomplished His task. Her ear, mind heart, conscience, and finally her soul have been reached. Every excuse and refuge have been removed. The great spiritual thirst and longing, unsatisfied by drinking at earth’s bitter waters, have been met by a drink of everlasting life. As if to punctuate the message, she leaves her water pot to run and tell other’s "living water": the Savior that quenches inner thirst.
Which thirst are you seeking to satisfy? At which waters have you drunk?