October 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
I was blessed to be able to read a copy of a talk that my sister Sue Korinko will be giving to a group of women at her church soon. She gave me permission to post it here so others could be encouraged by it. I pray that you are.
Words can lift us up or they can tear down. Words can crush and destroy—or they can encourage and motivate. Some words have a powerful impact on us in the moment; and some words leave an echo in your soul for years.
It’s not just about words … Our facial expressions and body language speak too. Have you ever seen one of those demonstrations on TV? It’s pretty interesting how these experts interpret what your body language is saying.
And of course, there’s a smile. People say that’s a universal language. I think you can even hear a smile in a person’s voice, even when you can’t see their face.
This isn’t rocket science. Making someone’s day can be as easy as smiling at them and saying “good morning”! Speaking life is about lifting the spirit of a person. Where does this idea come from? And how is God involved in Speaking life?
Well, He invented it! God is the Creator, the Giver of Life. BUT when He speaks life, it’s not to thank us for being good or congratulate us for our achievements. God’s words of life are always in harmony with what His will is for us. When God speaks life, His purpose is to restore in us the life He created that was destroyed by sin.
Here’s what the Bible says in Ephesians 2:5 “…even when we were dead in our sin, God made us alive together with Christ.” When God speaks life, the power of His words create life deep within our spirit, where we were dead, where there was no life. First Peter 1:23 says that we “have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.”
This life is rooted in the death of Jesus Christ as payment for our sin, and His resurrection from the dead. When we put our trust in what Jesus did for us, His Spirit comes to live in us producing life, hope, joy and peace that can only come from God.
Most of us know it as the story of the woman at the well in John chapter 4. John is the only one who records this particular event, and He tells us that the disciples went into town to buy food. But John records this dialogue in such detail, I sometimes wonder if he may have stayed behind with Jesus, and was sitting quietly nearby. We’re not told that, but I wonder.
As we go through the passage, we’ll hear Christ’s words of life spoken with sure and steady purpose. We’ll hear Him prepare this woman’s heart to receive what He wants to give her. We’ll see the eyes of her heart open as His words penetrate her hidden darkness and then give birth to new life.
It starts out with Jesus passing through Samaria on His way to Galilee. The Samaritans were considered mongrel Jews. Centuries earlier, during captivity, these Jews had intermarried with the pagan people of Assyria. Jews hated Samaritans and avoided them like the plague, even taking the long way around their cities just so they wouldn’t run into them. But we read here that Jesus, on His way to Galilee, is “passing through Samaria.”
Beginning in verse 5: “So He came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.” The disciples went into town to buy food, and as Jesus sat there resting … “There came a woman, a Samaritan”.
When I did some reading about the culture of that time, I learned that going to get water from the well was mostly something the women did. It was normally done early in the morning or in the evening when it was cool. But according to some sources I read, the 6th hour meant it was mid-day, when this woman came. That would be the hottest part of the day, and she was alone.
This encounter didn’t take Jesus by surprise. He knew this woman would be there and He knew she’d be alone. But I couldn’t help wondering about her. Why was she alone? And what was it like for her if “being alone” was her life?
Jumping ahead in the chapter for just a minute, we learn that she had been married five times. Who gets married five times? What happened to end these marriages? Was she the merry widow? Or the happy divorcee? Or maybe it was just the opposite. Maybe she was grief stricken and alone, or abused and thrown away.
Being a widow is not only sad and lonely; in that culture it could be life-threatening. If a widow had no family member to take her in and care for her, she could starve.
What if the men divorced her. In that day, the term was to “send your wife away.” Whatever you call it, both scream of “I don’t want you anymore.” And most likely, if that’s this woman’s story, she probably heard a lot of words that spoke death to her soul long before the official papers arrived.
I read that in that culture, the Jewish laws about divorce had become so twisted. A man was permitted to send his wife away for almost any reason that she displeased him. Those reasons ranged from silly, like he didn’t like her cooking, to the more serious cases of immorality.
What about this woman? Could her coming alone to the well and having had five husbands mean she was shunned by the others in her town? Did she have a reputation that caused her to be the subject of sneers and gossip? We don’t know the whole story, but I think we can assume that her life had not been an easy one.
Some of our stories might read that way. Maybe not for the same reasons as this woman, but difficult in their own way. We all want to be loved and accepted. Sometimes that drives us into unhealthy situations. Insecurity and failure can make us feel rejected and alone. The more isolated we FEEL, the more we act on that feeling. Maybe that’s where this woman was…we just don’t know. So as she gets closer to the well, she must have noticed a man sitting there…
Hmmm, Who’s this? He’s not from around here. I’ll just pretend I don’t see him.
Jesus breaks into her thoughts with a request. “Give Me a drink.” The sound of his voice probably startled her. She wasn’t expecting him to speak to her.
She could have run away or ignored him, but she doesn’t. What we do know of her story might give us the impression that she wasn’t uncomfortable speaking to this man she’d just met. She was used to being around men. Nevertheless, she’s just a little suspicious.
“How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” But, if it was her habit of coming alone to the well, maybe deep down inside she was glad to have someone to talk to…even if he is a Jew!
Jesus knows the woman has one thing on her mind – get her water and go home. But Jesus sees the thirst inside of her that she isn’t even aware of. Her life experience has exposed all the symptoms of someone dying of thirst, but she doesn’t know the reason why. Jesus is going to reveal it using the most common need she has – her need for water.
Jesus had started their conversation by saying “Give me a drink.” Now in verse 10: Jesus said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” He’s telling her He HAS water, “living water,” and that if she knew who she was talking to, she’d be the one asking HIM for this water. So the wheels must be turning…
Living water? What is this man talking about?
Of course, her focus is still on the water. But Jesus has got her thinking.
What did He say? If you knew the gift of God…? Who is this man?
What is the “gift of God” and what did she know about that? We learn from the text in verse 25 that she knew the Scripture prophesies about the coming Messiah.
Maybe she thought…
Is that what He means by the “gift of God?” Is this Jewish stranger referring to Messiah, the “Promised One?”
As she looked around, she noticed he didn’t have a bucket or a rope. In verse 11, She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where then do you get that living water?”
And then she questions his authority, “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?
Could she be thinking…
Is He saying there’s a better well somewhere, with sweeter water…something He’s calling ‘living water’?
And that brings up an interesting point: Sometimes speaking words of life to someone can sound confusing at first. That’s because of our perception of what we need. This woman was thirsty and all she wanted to do was fill her water pot. Jesus talked to her about “living water”—and she was trying to connect it to something tangible like the water in the well. But Jesus’ words of life were directed much deeper. He was speaking to her heart. Words of life go deeper than what we see on the surface.
When we’re in trouble, all we see is our circumstances. We don’t like hard things, and we tend to think, “Lord, please just get me out of this!” But often the circumstances are there so God can speak life into our heart, where we really need to hear it…where the real problem lies.
The question is this then, and it’s a hard one: Will I trust God enough to leave me in the circumstances as long as it takes for Him to get to the heart of the matter? I said that was a hard one, didn’t I? It’s a question God has been asking me recently. That’s a whole other message for another time.
But really, isn’t this God’s purpose for speaking life? To get to the heart of the matter? We’re seeing that right here in this passage. This woman at the well just wanted to fill her water pot, but Jesus wanted to fill her heart.
Before I met Jesus, I drank from one well after another, but nothing lasted. I just felt worse. I had religious training in school and God was interesting when I was a young girl. The older I got, the less interesting He became. I assumed He was busy taking care of the universe, so I was in charge of my life. And believe me, I didn’t do a very good job. It took me 28 years to learn that my being in charge was a huge mistake. But all that was about to change.
It began when my youngest brother, Michael, became very ill. He was just 4 years old at the time, the last of 7 children born in our family. He was a late comer and a surprise baby, to say the least. Dad was 50 and Mom was 46 when Michael was born. The youngest before him was 11 years old. Four of us older siblings were already married, and my parents were already grandparents. To make things even more exciting, Mom and I were pregnant at the same time, me at the age of 24 with my first child, and Mom, age 46, with her 7th. My brother and my daughter were born two months apart.
When Michael was 4 years old, he became very ill. This was a scary time for my mom. She’s a good woman, who had gone to church all her life. But the heart of the matter was that she didn’t know Jesus. And God would use this scary time and circumstance of Michael’s illness to speak His words of life into her. One night she was watching a Christian program on TV. As she listened to the speaker talk about the cross of Jesus Christ, my mom understood for the first time that Jesus didn’t just die for the whole world; He had died for HER. Her heart was opened and she turned her life over to Jesus Christ.
Only a short time after that, I was facing a crisis of my own. To make a long story short, all of our earthly possessions had been stolen and sold by a con man we had become involved with. Everything we owned was gone in a flash. It was like staring into a black hole. The loss was devastating, but the worst part was the guilt of what we had brought upon our two innocent young children.
We had to look into their little faces and know our stupid choices had done this to them. Sitting in my mom’s kitchen one night as I told her about the mess we were in, she said to me, “Sue, You need to give Jesus control of your life.” I wasn’t expecting that. But she spoke with such conviction, I couldn’t resist what she said.
I had believed God was up in heaven somewhere, but when she called Him Jesus, it was like He was right there in the room. His name, “Jesus,” had power I can’t explain. That conversation with my mom hit home in my heart and a short time later, Mom sent me a Bible and I started to read it. It was the first time I opened a Bible in my life. But God knew I was ready to listen to Him now and His word revealed what I needed to hear. The painful circumstance had brought me to my knees, but it also opened my heart so Jesus could speak life into my deadness. I am forever grateful for that loss, because it became my greatest gain.
And this woman here? Well, Jesus knows her heart is ready. She thinks the water from this well is the important issue; but Jesus knows better. He’s about to speak words that will change her life forever.
Jesus tells her that “everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again.” No earthly well, no matter what form it takes, can ever fully satisfy.
Long ago God spoke through the prophet Isaiah. Listen to what He says: “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
Jesus uses the reality of our circumstances to speak life into our heart. And in God’s plan, He calls us to be ready to speak these words of life to point others to Jesus. That’s what my Mom did with me.
We never know when God will give us that opportunity, so we need to be alert. First Peter 3:15 says this: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
Last summer, my son, Jay, was prepared to lead worship at his church. It was Father’s Day and they had a guest speaker that morning: A former Chicago Bears player, Mike Singletary. So the atmosphere was exciting and upbeat. Just minutes before the start of the service, Jay learned that the parents of a young Marine who had recently been killed in Afghanistan, were in the service seated in the front row. They weren’t regular attenders but Parkview was hosting the memorial service for their son that following week, so they came to the Father’s Day service. Listen to what my son wrote to me in an e-mail about that morning:
Just before the service…“I was made aware that this young marine’s family were in attendance seated in the front two rows. The morning’s service had an upbeat atmosphere because of Singletary and all the Bears/football stuff. When I learned these parents were out there, I felt an extreme burden for their sadness, in stark contrast to the excitement of the morning. I felt overwhelmed with such a responsibility, because of their grief. What could I say? I asked the Holy Spirit to speak through my mouth in a way that would minister to their sorrow. After the service these parents indicated that they were extremely moved by the words God had given me to say, and although I did not mention them specifically, they said they felt God was speaking directly to them.”
God gave my son words that would speak life into the heart of those grieving parents—words that spoke of Jesus.
God’s words always speak life.
Now listen carefully to what Jesus says next. This popped out at me when I was preparing for this message. This is so important…I don’t want us to miss it! “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Do you hear what Jesus is saying to her? He tells her that He is the Possessor of this “living water.” He has the authority to give it away. This living water is the Source of eternal life. Only God can give eternal life. Jesus is telling this woman that He is God!
She still doesn’t understand, but now she’s more eager than ever to have this water.
In verse 15, “The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.'” Her request is very revealing. It sounds like she didn’t like coming to the well. The other women in town may have looked forward to this task. It was their time to get together for some girl talk, to chat and laugh together. But not this woman. She came alone.
This just reminds us that people are so different from God. While God desires to move toward us, people are more apt to criticize, gossip and move away.
Maybe that’s what it was like for this woman. It could be there wasn’t anyone in her life that she felt loved her for who she was. Going to places where you’re just reminded of how isolated and lonely you feel… sometimes it just hurts too much.
So the idea that she might not be thirsty and have to “come all the way here to draw”—t sounds like that appealed to her. Even though she still doesn’t understand, she knows Jesus is offering her something good, something she needs, and she wants it!
That night I realized that Jesus had died to take my sins away. I remember saying, “I want that! I want what Jesus did for me!” Though I didn’t understand all the details then, I knew it was something good, something I needed, and I wanted it! I learned later that the “living water” Jesus gives is the Holy Spirit He sent to dwell inside me.
In John 7:37 Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive…”
Eternal life isn’t just about a place with no time. First John 5:11-12 says: “… that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”
Knowing Jesus is eternal life. Jesus Christ is the living water. And that living water, in the person of His Holy Spirit, who comes to live within every believer, is a well of water springing up to eternal life.
This is what Jesus was offering to the woman at the well.
And now, because words that speak life also speak truth, Jesus must make her face the truth of what’s behind all her brokenness. The Bible calls it sin. There’s no way around it. God’s words of life have to go there. In verse 16, we see this is where they’re at now. This is her “fork in the road.”
Once she has asked Him for this “living water”, Jesus says to her, “Go call your husband and come here.” Now there’s a jolt. They were having this nice friendly talk about water and bam! “Go call your husband.”
Jesus knew her journey. Psalm 139 tells us God had searched her and known her. He had scrutinized her path and was intimately acquainted with all her ways. (Psalm 139:2-3)
This woman probably couldn’t have imagined as a little girl that she’d wind up being married five times. No girl would. Life obviously hadn’t gone the way she dreamed it would. But she was powerless to change herself or her circumstances. And so she was stuck in her deadness. Her life revealed on the outside all that was wrong on the inside. Our sin inflicts deep wounds and ugly scars as a result of living in the dark. We only come to God when His light shines bright enough to show us the way.
There’s a passage in John’s gospel where Jesus describes Himself as “gentle and humble in heart.” That description fits here so beautifully. Though He was as direct as can be, His gentle manner appears to have melted away any attempt at the woman’s self defense. She responds by readily admitting the truth: “I have no husband.”
Jesus had begun to turn the pages of her life. He says, “You have correctly said, I have no husband, for you have had five husbands and the man you’re with now isn’t your husband.” There it is, the whole ugly truth. Jesus knows her whole story!
Five husbands! And now living with a man she’s not married to. Those were all just symptoms, but Jesus is going beneath all that. This woman came to the well that day weighed down by the reality of the deadness inside her. Like all of us, she had made herself god in place of the One who created her. “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6)
God knows when and how to bring us face to face with the truth of who we are. It is His kindness that leads us to turn to Him. Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness.” Some of us lived in the darkness so long, the light of truth can make us flinch at first. But sometimes that’s what “speaking life” means.
Jesus is never easy on sin. He knew what it was going to cost Him. But His words do not condemn this woman. Rather He offers her life, forgiveness and freedom.
Well, she must have thought … “How does this stranger know all these things about me?”
In verse 19, the woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.” Then it sounds like she tries to change the subject, but I’m not so sure about that. Maybe she just wants to find out more about this man and just exactly what authority he does have. She throws out to Him a long-debated religious argument the Jews and Samaritans had about where they should go to worship God.
In verse 21, Jesus said to her “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” The fact is that true worship to God isn’t about a mountain or a temple.
Then in verse 23, He says, “An hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Jesus had already reminded her that “salvation is from the Jews”. She’s waiting for Messiah too, just like all Jews. In verse 25, The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming. He who is called Christ; when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.”
And then, the veil comes off. Jesus says, I’m Him! “I who speak to you am He.”
John writes that just at that moment, the disciples return. We might think, “No, not now! Go away. You’re interrupting this important conversation!” But nobody interrupts God!
Jesus’ purpose in speaking with this woman had been accomplished. He didn’t leave anything out concerning her need. He revealed Himself to her. He was the Messiah, the “Gift of God,” standing right in front of her, speaking directly to her. And He offered her eternal life, a living forever relationship with God, His Father!
And so, in verse 28: John writes that the woman “leaves her water pot.” Her whole reason for going to the well in the first place was now forgotten in her joy and eagerness to share what had just happened to her.
“She went into the city and said to the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?'”
Almost as if she has to pinch herself to be sure she’s not dreaming…
Did this really happen to me? Did I just see and speak to Messiah Himself, in person? Me?!
She came to the well that day a woman dying of thirst. Her water pot was still empty, but her inner being was filled up with rivers of living water that would quench her thirst forever. Jesus spoke life into her; now His words of life will enable her to point others to Him. And she doesn’t waste any time.
After telling the men in the city, we read in verse 30 that “they went out of the city, and were coming to Jesus.” And later in verse 39, we read that “from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Jesus because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’ So when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word; And they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.'”
So what happens to her now? Did all her problems go away? Probably not. Life’s harshness doesn’t disappear when we turn to follow after Jesus. She may have still gone to the well alone every day. But I like to think that well was a special place to her now. It’s where she had come face to face with her Messiah. Now, when she went to the well, she could recall in her heart the words Jesus had spoken to her. His strong, gentle voice of authority, so different from the voices of the world around her.
Though others may not have valued her for who she was, it was at the well where she met Jesus, who knew everything about her and loved her anyway. Instead of being a prisoner to the guilt and shame of her past, being at the well would remind her that Jesus Messiah, the Judge of all the earth, had set her free.
It was true that abandonment and loneliness had been written with tears on pages of her story, but now she knows Jesus who promised He will never leave her or forsake her. His words of hope would continue to speak life into her soul giving her the strength and comfort she needed day by day.
All of us have a story. Every one is written with the ink of joys and sorrows, successes and failures, dreams fulfilled and hopes dashed. And, yes, even when we know Jesus, this world is a difficult place to live. We need to listen to Jesus speak His words of life to us, over and over again.
In the way that Samaritan woman went to that well to fill her water pot every day, we can imagine the Bible as our well. Like the water in Jacob’s well came from deep in the ground, the Bible’s pages contain truth that comes from the depths of the heart of God. Through these written words the Holy Spirit draws up His living water into our soul… words of life that will sustain us day after day.
This is our place to go. When we’re at the well, we’re reminded that Jesus knows everything about us and loves us anyway. When we cry there, Jesus knows the reason for our tears even when we can’t put words to them.
At the well, Jesus reminds us that He is our GOOD Shepherd and He takes perfect care of His sheep. He knows where and when we need to rest. He feeds us when we’re hungry and protects us when there’s danger. He knows when we wander off, where to find us and just how to bring us home. All because we belong to HIM.
We have times of joy and celebration at the well. And then there’s times when we’re exhausted and scared and feel like David did when he wrote this ”Oh, that I had wings like a dove so I could fly away and be at rest. I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness. I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest.” (Psalm 55:6-8)
That’s when we need to go to the well to hear Jesus remind us of the simple things, the only things a child needs to know:
- That our Heavenly Father is good and that He loves us with an everlasting love.
- That His ways are FAR, FAR BETTER than our ways.
- That He does everything perfectly right.
- We can trust Him even when we can’t see or understand what He’s doing.
Whenever we come to the “well”, we will find Jesus there waiting to speak life to us. It reminds me of this great little book written years ago, Hinds Feet on High Places. The main character’s name was Much Afraid. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, taught little Much Afraid, that whenever she was in trouble, all she needed to do was say His name and He’d be there right by her side, instantly.
Just saying Jesus’ name can shift our focus instantly toward Him. When we open our ears, His words of life bring peace. They comfort us and renew our hope, even in the midst of trouble. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run in and are safe.” (Prov. 18:10)
So, what’s written in your story? Is there a special page somewhere when Jesus spoke life into your spirit? Are there chapters you love to go back and read again because of the joy written there? And maybe some pages you tend to skip over because those weren’t such good days. Some may be stained with your tears. But you might notice that some of those very same pages have a sweet fragrance as you read over them.
Most of our stories include some blank pages too. When life and busyness kept us distracted and away from the well. But aren’t you glad that seasons change, and the things that once kept us away, are somehow removed as time passes. And we learn again how pleasant it is to spend time at the well.
Maybe you are hearing Jesus speak life into your heart right now, for the very first time. You’re like the woman at the well standing face to face with Jesus. He is offering you “living water”, the Gift of God. Christ’s finished work accomplished on the cross, and sealed by God in raising Jesus from the dead. If you’re that woman right now, I hope you’ll open your heart to receive what He freely wants to give you.
Wherever you are, Jesus wants to speak words of life and truth to meet whatever we need in every moment. I hope it will be that your story will have page after page that read something like this: “There came a woman to the well…” And it was me!
Author: Sue Korinko