The story of Jesus with the woman at the well is a study in nuance and the necessity of looking deeper to find true meaning. Twice during today’s passage (JN 4) Jesus speaks of things that are totally misinterpreted. When Jesus surprises the woman by asking her for a drink (Samaritans were the enemies of the Jews; moreover, talking to a woman whom he didn’t know was totally unacceptable), she demurs. He tells her if she knew who was asking she would’ve been the one to ask him and he would have given her “living water.” Her retort of, “You don’t even have a bucket…” was a reasonable response on a literal level, but Jesus was, as we know, offering much more. Had the conversation stopped there, she certainly would have missed the transformation that took place in the encounter.
When the disciples came back from their excursion to buy food and urged him to eat, he said, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” Their reaction was, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” I feel sorry for the disciples in this case since their understanding of what he said was totally logical. Had they been there to witness his experience with the woman, I wonder if they would have recognized that he was speaking from a different place – a deeper level. Perhaps not as no one had ever spoken to them – or the woman – as he had. This event was early in John’s gospel and it appears that no one was used to the cryptic manner of speaking that was his. They needed to learn to listen from a deeper place, as it appears the woman realized in that one conversation.
We are much more schooled to tone and body language and levels of meaning in personal encounters than were the players in this gospel scene. Still we need to be alert to catch what people are trying to say. As our relationships deepen, so does our familiarity with certain processes of conversation. I think this morning of the necessity of really listening to the ways in which God speaks to me: in the natural world, in encounters with people, in the silence of prayer…Does my relationship with God go deep enough that I experience joy in the realization that God knows “everything I have ever done?” Have I truly listened to my heart deeply and long enough to hear that message? Ah, for the grace of encounter that blessed that woman at the well of which I also have the opportunity if only I am open and willing. Today then, my prayer will be, “Give me that living water!”