Obey Your Thirst: Some Thoughts on John 4.5-42

Remember the Sprite campaign: Obey Your Thirst?

I think they were on to something.

Obeying our thirst is kind of a big thing.

Dehydration is no fun.

This is why the story of Jesus’ encounter with a foreign woman at a well outside Sychar in Samaria one hot summer afternoon is about so much more than an encounter with a foreign woman at a well outside Sychar in Samaria one hot summer afternoon.

This woman was thirsty.

We are thirsty.

Her soul was parched and she didn’t even realize it. Her soul longed for worth and value, love and acceptance and as Johnny Lee once eloquently crooned, she was “lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.” Like trying to satisfy physical thirst with saltwater, attempting to satisfy the longing of our souls with anything other than the living water that Christ offers just makes us thirstier.

C.S. Lewis understood this deep thirst that we all have: “Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.”

Likewise, Augustine famously stated that “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”

Recognizing our deep thirst is essential to understanding Jesus’ offer of living water. We must realize that we are not simply physical beings. Nicodemus had to grasp this, this woman had to grasp this, and we have to grasp this. There is a longing deep within us that must be satisfied if we are to truly live the kind of life that we were created to live.

What's the alternative?

We continue to live our lives longing for, searching for, grasping for anything we can to bring temporary relief from our thirst.

For this woman it was relationships: she felt that she could satisfy the longing in her soul if she could just find the right man. Five failed marriages later she is still looking. In the meantime, she has been ostracized by her community and labeled a tramp.

As someone once asked, “How’s that working out for you?”

So Jesus goes right to the heart of the matter; he reveals her longing to her, he forces her to face herself and acknowledge her thirst. Then he helps her begin to understand that he is what she is truly longing for.

William Barclay puts it this way: “There are two revelations in Christianity: the revelation of God and the revelation of ourselves. We never really see ourselves until we see ourselves in the presence of Christ; and then we are appalled at the sight. There is another way of putting it – Christianity begins with a sense of sin. It begins with the sudden realization that life as we are living it will not do. We awake to ourselves and we awake to our need of God.”

This is what happened to this woman, and it is what can happen to us if we are willing to drink the water that Jesus provides.

Almost as a side note, John adds that this woman’s instant response to the love and grace of Christ was to unashamedly run back to the village and the people that had shunned her and share with them what had happened.

Our natural response to receiving the living water should be to share it with others.

There’s plenty to go around.

We’re all thirsty. And we’ve all tried to satisfy our thirsts with everything other than the living water that Christ offers.

Perhaps it’s time for something new.

Can I offer you a drink?


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