Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water . . . Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here” (John 4:10–16).Last week, we made the claim that the living water Jesus was offering to the woman at the well was actually an encounter with the other-centered, non-condemning, selfless, genuine love that only comes from God Himself (see 1 John 4:7). We gave a series of evidences for this, but the strongest evidence is that when the woman finally did ask for it, in order for Jesus to actually give it to her, He had to bring up the subject of her husband. Why does the conversation abruptly take this twist? What was Jesus up to? I think it’s quite simple and obvious if one thinks about it for just a moment.
At the end of the dialogue with this woman, she runs back to her village and states, “Come meet a man who told me everything bad I’ve ever done.” What Jesus actually told her was that she had been married five times and, to put it bluntly, the man she was living with currently was just what my folks would have called “shacking up.” I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to talk to complete strangers about their marital past before, but I would imagine the last response to be expected would be for them to get excited about it (if it was much like this woman’s) and for them to go run off to all their friends so they could come and meet you, too! It’s a very odd story, to say the least. What on earth is going on here, and what does it have to do with Jesus’ gift of living water?
John tells us that the law came through Moses, but grace and truth were realized through Jesus (John 1:17). Grace and truth. Both. Put yourself in this woman’s shoes for just a moment and imagine how you’d feel as Jesus recounts all the mistakes you’ve made in your past. But something is different. As he lists all your mistakes, His expression never changes, the look in His eyes does not drift into disappointment, He doesn’t pull away, there is no censor, only acceptance, forgiveness, compassion and pure, non-condemning love. You begin to realize that He really does know everything there is to know about you, and, yet, He still passionately loves you with all of it. This kind of love is “living water!” When I grew up, people used to tell me, “Love is blind.” And although I understand what they meant, I don’t need a love that’s blind! I need a love that knows everything there is to know about me and yet loves me nonetheless for it. A love that knows the truth about me, but the worse that reality is, the more His grace abounds. I need a love that is not just full of truth, but grace and truth. What this woman saw was the same reality Paul later encountered, too, that where “Sin abounds, Grace does much more abound” (Romans 5:20). What this woman encountered was the deeply intimate embrace of an all-enveloping love for her very soul, just the way she was. And do you know what the beauty of this kind of love is? Though it loves you just the way you are, it never leaves you quite the same as when it found you. It immediately begins to transform its object into the same exact image of itself. It becomes a fountain inside us, flowing out toward others as well. We immediately begin to want to be able to love like that! And when that takes place, then we begin to realize what “Salvation” really is. We, at that point, pass from death unto life, and enter a world of extravagant love, amazing grace, and an intimate relationship with the most beautiful Being in all the universe, a Being others before us have defined as — Love.