Bread and Water

14 Jul

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

My phone was eligible for an upgrade – so off to the store I trotted, birthday and Christmas money saved for months safely stuffed into my pocket.  I was a little incensed that the clerk opened the box unceremoniously in front of me.  Part of the fun of buying something new is opening the box and being the first one to handle the pristine item.  The feeling passed quickly, however, as he expertly transferred all my contacts, and presented me with my sleek, new super-phone.

The new phone has some cool features, but my real reason for upgrading is the camera.  I’ve become fascinated with phone/app photography.  I was excited to show my new tool to friends with the same interest.  Raised eyebrows and nods of approval all around.  Except for someone new to the group.

“Why didn’t you wait for the next model coming out in 3 months?  The camera will be even better, the storage capacity enormous, and the processing time next to nothing.”

I knew about the upcoming product, but I’d decided the wait wasn’t worth it.  I was happy with my new camer… I mean phone!  Still, a little wistful feeling crept into my happiness when I realized that my brand new (quite expensive) purchase was already outdated technology.


Dissatisfaction can be a good thing.

Our bodies need replenishing.  Yesterday’s manna is gone (or moldy!), and we need to eat again today to satisfy our hunger.  The water I drank before sitting down to write this post has been absorbed into my hydration-thirsty cells.   I need more to satisfy my thirst.  (Right now.  brb!)  Bread and water.  Hunger and thirst.  They are part of our human condition.

Jesus contrasted the living water He promised the Samaritan woman with water drawn from the public well.  The Greek word for well in the passage, more correctly translated cistern, describes “a receptacle for water conveyed to it; distinguished [from a different Greek word, translated spring], which denotes a place where water rises on the spot.” (1)

Because rainfall was extremely scarce in Israel (much like in the Midwest this summer!), people had to dig cisterns to collect every bit of rain in order to have water during the dry season, while those who lived near a spring had an endless supply of fresh water, no matter what the weather or season.

Water in a cistern would sustain life, but spring water was far more preferable.  Cisterns dried up, the water they held was stagnant or muddy and lukewarm, and pride or self-sufficiency replaced dependence on God.

Living water from a spring was sweet and clear, cool and refreshing; it flowed continuously from deep within the earth without the aid of human back-breaking labor.

This is the context of the offer Jesus made to the woman at the well.

Of course she wanted living water!

Walking to the cistern everyday to get water was hard work and the water she collected was sub-standard– warm and muddy from last month’s rainstorm.  She definitely wanted the water upgrade Jesus offered!

But Jesus shattered her mental water jar on the nearby cliffs.

He wasn’t talking about water at all.  This Living Water fills on a more basic life-level.  It truly satisfies and also causes a deep yearning for more and more of the same.

Jesus wasn’t saying that she, and we, only need one drink from the spring of Living Water to be satisfied, but that once we know where to get a drink, the desire to go back to the cistern evaporates like a puddle on desert clay at noon in July.  We no longer thirst because now we know where to find the Living Water.

But just like the lesson of the Old Testament manna,  taking an extra-big drink of Living Water won’t last through tomorrow.  (You will have to get up during the night, though!)   Carrying home an extra supply of water in a jar also won’t last until tomorrow because it won’t be fresh – it will stagnate.

The spiritual parallel supports two main points:

  1. a holy dissatisfaction with substitutes for our relationship with Christ; and
  2. a daily (or hourly) need for relationship-building with our Lord.

Our thirst is satisfied in Him, the Living Water, and yet we are also unsatisfied and thirsty for more of Him.  We have tasted the fresh water and know where it comes from– so we can’t help but return.


Ready for Sunday

Sometimes when I get focused on a task or a project, it feels very inconvenient to stop and eat.  I can keep going for a little while, but when my energy begins to dry up, I wish I’d stopped earlier to fuel my energy.  How many times have I continued to forge ahead on my own, when I know where the Source of my strength lies?

Why do I wait until my tank is on E before stopping for a long, cool drink?  And why do I trade the stagnant water of my own efforts for Life-giving Water?

As worship leaders, it also goes beyond you and me.  Not only is it impossible to lead others to the spring if we haven’t been there lately, but if we travel without stopping for Living Water, we will shrivel up in the heat and not be able to lead anyone.

The condition of my parched yard and gardens in the hottest and driest summer in a century is a graphic reminder of what I am on my own.  Desolate.  And the day lilies I water everyday, that exists in the same harsh summer, display the glory of the One who satisfies the thirsty.


(1) Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary quoted in the cistern article on


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