BIBLE INSIGHTS in 500 words
Living Water: Speak of Heaven!
John 4:10-14, John 7:37-41
Every now and then, we find ourselves “talking past each other.” You have your story and I have mine. We see life, logic, and meaning from our own perspectives. The English phrase is like the Chinese idiom about a “chicken talking to a duck” (鸡同鸭讲 or 雞同鴨講).
The conversation between the woman at the well and Jesus is a bit like “a chicken talking to a duck,” or more accurately, “a heavenly perspective talking to a material girl.”
The conversation is on two levels, the earthly and the heavenly. When God created the world, he created both heaven and earth. God’s home is heaven, and our home is earth. It is the mission of Jesus to bring the life of heaven to earth.
The life from heaven is called the “Kingdom of God” in Mark and Luke and the “Kingdom of Heaven” in Matthew. John uses the term “eternal life” to describe the same thing (for example, John 3:16; 5:24; 10:28; 12:50, 17:3 etc.).
The Samaritan woman was thinking about water that comes out of a hole in the earth. Jesus was speaking of water that wells up from God’s heaven. Naturally, she was thinking in earthly terms (a material girl).
Jesus responds with his first hint that he was talking about water from heaven when he uses the phrase “living water” (John 4:10). That was the normal term used for running water as in a stream or river rather than standing water found in a pool or a well. Running water is more likely to be fresh and clean. Water from a standing pool is more likely to be stagnant.*
Now the double meaning kicks in. Jesus is talking about “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Jesus offers the life of God to the Samaritan woman. God’s life is a spring, bubbling up inside a person, producing the life that Jesus brings into the world. Jesus will talk about this again and clearly identify the living water with the Spirit of God.
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. … On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Messiah” (John 7:37-41).
Notice the results of understanding Jesus as the “living water” (John 4:10; 7:38):
- The people came to see Jesus as a “Prophet” and “Messiah” (John 7:41)
- The woman came to see Jesus as “Prophet,” and “Messiah” (John 4:19, 25).
We will not understand the fullness of Jesus
with an “earthly mind.”
We need the “living water” from God’s heaven
to open our “spiritual heart.”
*I am indebted to N.T. Wright in Luke for Everyone, Part 1 for several of the insights in this blog post.