Living Water that Refreshes, Cleanses, and Gives Eternal Life
Yesterday we had such a beautiful day, and for most of the day I was outside shoveling wheel barrels full of loam and compost for a new garden bed we started. One thing led to another and I went from our garden bed to replanting some flowers, and then filling in uneven areas of our ground. Needless to say, by the end of the afternoon I was exhausted from the work and simply from spending so much time under the sun. At one point, I sat down and thoroughly enjoyed a simple glass of cold water. A simple glass of water seemed to refresh my soul.
I thought about how refreshing and renewing that glass of water was when I read today’s Gospel story. Jesus was walking from Judea to Galilee and was tired from his journey. Imagine, the Son of God, God incarnate, feeling tired. And yet, that is how John the Evangelist describes Jesus, to show the fully human side of the Christ. It was the middle of the day and Jesus was tired from his journey, so he sat down by a well. His disciples went off to the nearby town while Jesus rested. And in the middle of the day, here come a woman to fetch water.
Now this was quite unusual because women typically came to the wells the first thing in the morning. That was the coolest part of the day, and when all the women gathered together, it was sort of their social time with one another. Yet here was Jesus all by himself, and he sees a woman all by herself with her stone jar to fill up water (Just a side note- we actually visited the well of Jacob in Samaria (Nablus) during our visit to the Holy Lands last year and saw the actual stone jar that the Samaritan Woman was carrying.)
So Jesus asks the woman for water to drink, and the woman is perplexed that a Jewish man would even speak to her, a woman, and a Samaritan to boot! Jews and Samaritans were quite unfriendly with each other, and it was totally improper for a man to speak alone with a woman, no less a rabbi, a teacher.
This whole conversation is simply the backdrop for what Jesus is prepared to offer the woman. Jesus asks for water because he is hot and tired, but in reality, He tells her that He is ready to give her His own Living Water, water which will quench the thirst of her soul. St. Augustine once said, “Our souls remain restless until they rest in the Lord.” This is exactly what Jesus was addressing in this woman’s life, a restless, thirsty soul. So he suggest to her “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give will never thirst; the water that I shall give will become in a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
Listen to this beautiful promise of Jesus. He offers to give Living Water that not only quenches one’s thirst but which refreshes and renews one’s soul. He gives water that cleanses the recipient. He freely shares mystical water that offers new life!
This is exactly what this Samaritan woman needed in her own life. As their conversation progressed, it becomes clear that this woman has come to Jacob’s well in the middle of the day, all by herself for a reason. She was a woman ostracized by society. She had been married five times. She was living with a man not her husband. She must have been a broken woman who felt the shame and rejection of society, someone who felt terrible about herself, who felt she was unclean and impure.
Her life had taken many turns and twists she probably never dreamed would happen. She needed to be refreshed and renewed in her life. And Jesus was offering her living water that would do exactly that. “Refresh and renew your soul! Come to me and drink,” Jesus wooed her. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
Living water, however, doesn’t only refresh one’s soul. It cleanses one’s spirit. Through His ministry, Jesus is constantly telling people, “Your sins are forgiven you. Go in peace. Sin no more.” Jesus is all about cleansing us from the dirt and impurity of our sinful and adulterous world. One of the properties of water is to cleanse the dirt that clings to our bodies. The Living Water that Jesus offers does precisely that, cleanses whatever has dirtied our souls - dirt from our past mistakes and failings as well as cleanses us from the dirtiness of the world.
So, Christ’s Living Water refreshes us and cleanses us. Yet there is one final primary property of water, and that is it gives us life. We cannot live without water. Water sustains life. The Living Water of Jesus Christ refreshes, cleanses and gives life!
Here is the promise Jesus offered to the broken, marginalized, sinful Samaritan Woman, and it is the same promise He makes to each one of us. “Come to me and drink from my Living Water, come and drink daily and I will give you water the refreshes your soul, that cleanses your spirit, and that gives you an abundant life.”
And there is one more unbelievable part of this promise – “Whoever drinks of this water will never thirst again!” This Living Water quenches our souls for all eternity, because this water becomes a fountain of water springing up within us.” A well spring of life within us!
These words were all too much for the Samaritan Woman. She was lost. She appeared desperate. She seemed hopeless. Yet she found new hope and new life through her encounter with Christ. In fact, she became a new person. This broken, despised Samaritan woman who had been married five times and was living with someone not her husband, meets Jesus, drinks from His Living Water, and become a new creation. She becomes known as St. Fotini, the Enlightened One, who dedicated her life to following Jesus Christ, witnesses to the world about your changed and transfigured life, and ends up following Him even to the point of martyrdom. The Church remembers this beloved saint twice a year, on the 5th Sunday of Pascha as well as on February 26th!
The new life that St. Fotini received is one that our Lord offers to each and every person. No matter what our past story, no matter how broken and lost we are, not matter what shame and guilt we may feel for our past deeds, our Lord Jesus offers to His Living Water, a well spring of life bubbling up within our souls, and whoever chooses to receive this gift opens up the gates of eternity in their lives!
Living Water that Refreshes, Cleanses, and Gives Eternal Life
Our Orthodox Faith
Spirituality: The Meaning of Theosis As the Goal of Christian Life