“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?’
Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life'” (John 4:10-14 NIV).
It seems that this woman had not yet caught on to Jesus’ meaning. You see, when Jesus used the term “living water,” she may have thought that He was referring to “running water” or the kind of water that you would see flowing in a river or a stream. Since neither of these happened to be nearby, this lady seems understandably confused. However, Jesus’ intention was to show her need for the “water of life” that He could provide.
To understand what Jesus meant by this phrase, we simply need to read something that He once said that’s recorded in John 7:37-39…
“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive…” (NIV).
So with this in mind, we can understand why Jesus answered her question in the way that He did. In any event, it’s clear that Jesus certainly has her attention…
“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water'” (John 4:15 NIV).
Now this woman may not have understood everything that Jesus meant, but she knew this much- if this stranger could provide her with water that would keep her from ever getting thirsty again, she was definitely interested…
“He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true'” (John 4:16-18 NIV).
To her credit, this woman was very honest and upfront with Jesus. When Jesus asked this woman to get her husband and return, she responded with an honest answer- “I have no husband.” But why did Jesus even bring her living arrangements into the conversation at all? What was the point of mentioning her husband (or lack of one) in the first place? Well, Jesus’ request served two important purposes :
1) First, it served to establish that this woman was leading a lifestyle that was not in line with God’s Word
2) Secondly, Jesus clearly showed that He knew more about this lady than a normal human being would ordinarily know
Surprisingly however, Jesus’ conversation with this woman also served one other important purpose. It demonstrated that she didn’t have to be afraid to be totally honest with Jesus. You see, when she said, “I don’t have a husband” (GNB), how did Jesus respond? Did He get angry with her? Did He ridicule her? Did He yell at her, criticize her, make fun of her, or make an example of her in front of others?
No, He praised her for being honest: “You are right when you say you don’t have a husband. You have been married to five men, and the man you live with now is not really your husband. You have told me the truth” (GNB). This tells us that when we approach Jesus with truthfulness and respect, we don’t need to be fearful of being honest with Him about who we are or what we’ve done.
“‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem'” (John 4:19-20 NIV).
Even though Jesus was pretty gentle in His response to this woman, it seems that she was still a little uncomfortable with the subject of her personal life as seen by her attempt to change the subject. As mentioned earlier, the Jewish people and the Samaritan people did not get along in the days of the first century and because of this, the Samaritan people weren’t allowed to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem.
In response to this, the Samaritans set up their own location to worship God and offer sacrifices. So the question that this lady put to Jesus was basically this: “We say that God should be worshipped here and other people say that God should be worshipped someplace else- who’s right?”
Now check out how Jesus gets directly to the real issue in His response:
“Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth'” (John 4:21-24 NIV).
Notice that Jesus doesn’t get involved in a big argument over this subject. He is clearly more interested in directing this woman to God than getting involved in a secondary debate. Jesus says in effect, The question of whether to worship here or there is not the point. God should be worshiped with our innermost being -in spirit and in truth. True spiritual worship can occur wherever you happen to be.
You see, the important thing is not that “worship” takes place at a particular time and place – your own life is the place where God wants worship. Worshipping “in spirit and truth” doesn’t only refer to singing songs that honor God. It also means we are internally concerned with living the kind of life that makes a priority of giving God the genuine thanks, credit, honor, and appreciation that He deserves.