If You Knew…

This is the seventh message about the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well that is recorded in John 4.

Dear Friends:

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (Jn 4:10).

This is a great and beautiful statement about prayer from the One in whom every one of God’s promises is a “yes” (2 Cor 1:20).

Jesus answered her, a Samaritan woman, who never thought a Jewish male would speak to her, let alone the Son of God.

In suspicion and self-protection she has asked, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jn 4:9).

She doesn’t know who he is, that’s an unfolding mystery, but he has, in one sentence, breached her defenses with the first wave of grace. She has come to a spring for a pitcher of water. He is about to immerse her in the ocean of God’s love.

Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
(Ps 42:7-8)

“If you knew. . . .”

These are a lover’s words of aching longing. “If you knew . . . .”

“If you knew how much I love you. . . .”

“If you only knew how much I care about you. . . .”

“If you knew that I think about you all the time. . . .”

“If you only knew that I am crazy about you. . . .”

“If you knew the gift of God. . . .” Before, anything else there is grace. That’s what the gift of God is called, “grace.” The good news is the bad news was wrong. There is nothing you can do to earn his love and nothing that you can do to lose it.

Paul wrote a beautiful description of the gift in all its power and blessing for our lives. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Eph 1:2-6).

Before the woman was a wife rejected or widowed; before she was shunned from the morning company of women so that she bore the lonely shame of noonday to come to slake her thirst; before she knew that there was such a thing as a Samaritan and that she was one and was hated for it; long before all of that, she was chosen in love and destined in love to be adopted as a precious daughter of her heavenly Father. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. . .to be holy and blameless before me,” your Father, a parent as no other, who delights in you as his daughter (Jer 1:5 and Eph 1:4).

He has never stopped loving her and will never stop loving her, specifically her. He spoke of this in an ancient prophesy.

I have loved you with an everlasting love
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built;
O virgin Israel!
Again you shall take your tambourines;
and go forth in the dance of merrymakers.
Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant,
and shall enjoy the fruit.
For there shall be a day when sentinels will call
in the hill country of Ephraim:
“Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.”
(Isa 31:3-6)

Jesus is inviting her to this possibility, awakening her to this hope. “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is asking, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

He does not separate the gift from the Giver. Jesus redirects her focus from the labels of “Jew,” and “Samaritan woman” to think about who he is and what he might mean to her. God always precedes his gifts.

Grace is not random. It is rooted in relationship. The assurance of living water comes from tapping the source. We easily forget this like rude children on Christmas day, ripping the paper and ribbon off and running outside to play with our toy without thanking the parents who sacrificed with joy to make us happy.

“Living water” is flowing water with a permanent source as in a spring or a river. It is water that carries the power of change and supply. It can sculpt its own course while renewing a land and a people and no human power can restrain it forever.

Living water brings the promise of forgiveness of all the wrong and losing choices, a washing away of impurities, and a healing of the unsightly scars and blemishes of shame. The guilty and grim will know what it means to enjoy life again when they are refreshed by this living water.

He speaks to her in the past tense as if the opportunity has already passed her by–“You would have asked. . . and he would have given. . . .” It seems somewhat mean. “You missed out because you didn’t know to ask.”

“Always the bridesmaid, never the bride” the old saying goes about opportunities just out of grasp and love unrequited. A lot of us think about Christ like this. Our hearts carry a dull ache like they do when we pass warmly lit houses in the cold of twilight, but we know that we don’t belong there and must keep moving on. Our hollow soul echoes a plaintive “Why?”

“Why don’t I sense the presence of the Lord like she does?”

“Why doesn’t God ever speak to me like he does to him?”

“Why doesn’t God ever do with me like he does with her?”

“Why can’t I be sure of God’s love like he is?

“Why can’t I see God’s purpose for my life like she can for her’s?”

“Why do my prayers always seem to ricochet off of the ceiling?”

“Why can’t I ever shake this vague feeling of dread that something bad is going to happen?”

“Why do I always miss out on the good things that happen to him?”

Jesus does not taunt you with, “You’re too late,” or condemn you with “You’re not good enough,” or dismiss you with, “I told you so.” “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17).  He is no “kill-joy,” or thief of your hopes and destroyer of your happiness. He says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

His use of the past-tense is salt to whet her spiritual thirst. He senses her longing, in her lone noonday errand, and bold reaction to his request for a drink. He wants her to know that there is something more for her, something good, something true and lasting and he wants her to want it.

All of the “why” questions above focused on someone else or on the questioner as the important points of reference. That is looking for love in the wrong places. He cries out, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart'” (Jn 7:37-38).

Every one of God’s promises finds its “Yes” in Jesus (2 Cor 1:20). Wherever you’ve been looking to satisfy your thirst, take another scan with the eyes of your heart . He’s the place to look and the One to see. Bring your thirst and come to Jesus for the long drink that will satisfy.

“O taste and see that the Lord is Good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).

Under the mercy of Christ,


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