We find several references to water this week. The chapter opens with the baptism of Jesus. Later on we have the wedding an Cana, where the water is turned into wine. When Jesus tells Nicodemus that one must be born again, he says that “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” Finally comes the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. It was this last story that actually caught me at first.
When I read that story, I’m drawn to other encounters at wells from the Old Testament. Jacob met Rachel at a well as he fled from his brother Esau. Moses met his wife Zipporah by a well as he fled from Egypt. Both stories which would have been familiar to the people of Jesus day. Both stories tell of an encounter that changed the course of the lives of those involved. And this story is no exception. The Samaritan woman was an outsider to the Jews, both because of her birth as a Samaritan, and because she had been with so many men. Yet Jesus speaks with her at the well, and then offers himself AS a well – a well of living water which will flow eternally.
Jesus asks her for water, even though he then tells her that she should be asking him for water. That actually takes me back to the first story – the baptism of Jesus by John. When Jesus first approaches John, John is reluctant to baptize him, feeling unworthy. But Jesus urges him to do it anyway, saying “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” In this act, I see a living out of Jesus title as the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed one. The kings of the Old Testament were anointed with oil by prophets. Jesus is anointed with water by a new prophet, and the Spirit of God descends upon him as a result.
I think that this image of anointing with water can be continued into understanding Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. When Jesus says “born of water and Spirit,” I think he’s inviting everyone to join with him in being an anointed one of God. Children of God. Even the outsiders, like the Samaritan woman, are included in that invitation.
The title of this post comes from a song that I liked from the ’70s. It alternately goes by the titles “Come To the Water” and “For Those Tears I Died.” It speaks an invitation from Jesus to come to him, and ask, and your thirst and pain will be assuaged. This version isn’t my favorite (to “countrified” for my taste) but it DOES show the lyrics.