March 18, 2017
“Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.” (Jn 4:6)
Why has he come here? He is tired and thirsty. Who knows, perhaps Satan is whispering something in his ear about conjuring himself a cool drink. Instead, he allows his tiredness and thirst to remind him of his absolute reliance on his Father. He is alone. He has no bucket. He waits.
She comes at noon – for water, just like everyone else. She doesn’t expect this routine chore to result in a marriage, as it did for her foremothers, Rebecca, Rachel and Zipporah.
In many places in John’s Gospel, Jesus says I AM: “I am the bread of life” (Jn 6:35), “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12), “I am the gate” (Jn 10:9), “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11), “I am the true vine” (Jn 15:1). Here he allows his posture to say it all. He sits on the well, like a rock covering the opening, waiting for someone to come looking for a drink.
It is the woman who will strike the rock to give water to her people.
He remembers his deep thirst for the virgin daughter Israel, for his beloved who has deserted him and whom he came to seek out, for all human hearts.
With skeptical glance, she reminds him that he doesn’t have a bucket. Her water jar is at the ready, empty, waiting. But she seems to have forgotten it as she looks at him, puzzled, but intrigued.
He is the water, and she the empty vessel.
“Give me this water.” Her importunity delights him. He sees that she has nothing to lose.
Like Israel, she has had five husbands, or more. Like any of us, she has not always been faithful. She has sought happiness in places that yield only emptiness and parched thirst, cisterns that hold no water. Intuition tells her that there is something greater here. Something that will satisfy.
He sees who she is; he lets her see who he is.
My prayer for myself, and for you, is that we may not be afraid to bring empty vessels to the well. That we may not be afraid to be seen for who we are, and received, and filled. That we may pour out water for others to drink.
“…you take pleasure in the faces
of those who know they thirst.”
(Rainer Maria Rilke)