When I was in seminary, I worked in a missions office. One of the perks of the job was getting to travel internationally and see what our missionaries were doing in their communities. On one trip, I was in a rural community where the local missionaries and pastors would go into villages and use storytelling to introduce people to Jesus.
As we walked through one village, the leader of our group said, “Brittany, we’re approaching a village with women and children, and I was hoping maybe you would share with them about the woman at the well.” I was young and inexperienced, worried that I would get the story wrong. I was worried that I would do something to dishonor their culture or that maybe I would misrepresent Jesus somehow. But, nervously, I said yes, with their assurances that if I mis-stepped, they would be there to help (and also, they gave me an encouraging reminder that the Lord was in control of the women’s response; it was merely my job to share).
As we sat in a circle under the shade of a beautiful tree, I shared the story that we read today in John. I shared about a woman, who had experienced many of life’s heartaches, and how, while she went to the well to get water, she met the Savior of the world. Through a translator, I asked them if they knew what it was like to experience shame from their communities and many of the women nodded. I asked them if they could imagine being so shamed and outcast that they no longer sought out the safety of going to the well with a group of women, but they chose to go alone. And then I asked them, “Can you imagine that the God of this world chose to share the Good News of Jesus with an outcast, a shamed woman no less?” And some of them clicked their teeth.
And to their disbelief, I then got to share with them the good news that this wasn’t some fairy tale. I explained that the story in John wasn’t a myth or a legend, but it was as true and reliable as the ground we sat on. I got to share that Jesus wasn’t only a “good man,” but the living water that He offered the woman at the well He was also offering to them today.
And that’s the message I’m bringing to you as well.
You see, too often I think we become overly familiar with passages in Scripture. Some stories, more than others, become like folktales passed on rather than powerful stories that shape the way we view ourselves and our God. And I’ll confess that when I walked into the village to share the passage in John, I was guilty of that. And yet, when I left that village, I walked away in tears not because of the response of the kind and generous women I met, but because watching them understand the story for the first time helped me to see it with fresh eyes.
And that’s what I hope for you today, too. If you opened your Bible today and quickly sped through the story because of its familiarity, let me encourage you to go back and read again:
“But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.” – John 14:14–15
This is good news, not just for the woman at the well, but for us today. It is good news because the God of the universe offers us eternal life in Him. And, more than that, He has shown that this eternal life isn’t reserved for the religious elite, but it’s for the outcasts and downtrodden. It’s for the woman who has been overlooked, cast aside, and ignored. It’s for the Jew and Gentile, for people in cities and villages, and it’s for you and me.
The woman at the well is a powerful story because it reminds us that no one is too broken for the redeeming love of almighty God. Although on this side of heaven we regularly find wells that dry up, the Son of the living God has invited us to drink living water from a well that will never run dry.
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