The Water Is Alive

Third Sunday in Lent  |  John 4:5-42

John writes of simple things. Light. Bread. Water. All of them speak to us of God, of this person Jesus.

In the noon-day heat of the story, Jesus sits by a well and tells a woman about water that is alive. Those who are raised in Christianity, who grew up surrounded by its imagery, will not even pause at the words—living water—being already steeped in such language.

OverlookingStream 002Living water.

It is an odd phrase, particularly in modern English. In Greek in the first century, the phrase meant water that moves. Living water comes from a stream or a gushing spring: it is water that is not still, unlike the water of a well. In John’s gospel, though, the words point to the source of life.

The woman doesn’t seem to understand. Jesus tries again. He claims that the water he could give would keep springing up inside the drinker, an odd thing. The woman, being of a practical mind, takes his words literally and so misunderstands, thinking only of freedom from hauling buckets of water from the well.

Jesus stops trying to explain the water. He finds other ways to open her mind.

We might see that like Jesus and this woman, God waits for us at the point of our need. When she arrived at the well, Jesus had arranged to be there. That gives us hope that when we find ourselves in the noon heat with an empty bucket, God is already there waiting.

Like the gospel writer, we might also pay attention to simple things. While God could make an appearance with trumpets and a chorus of angels, this gospel tells us that God is more likely to be present in a drink of water, the taste of bread, the sunlight. The evidence of scripture is that God prefers simple things.

Light. Bread. Water. These are the most basic things we need for life. John uses them to teach us of the nature of God.