John chapter 4

Surely, you’re not greater than…?

“And besides, are you greater than our ancestor Jacob who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his cattle enjoyed? – Vs 12 NLT

While reading chapter four of John this morning, I tried to stay away from the same old comfortable conclusions that seem to come with this all-too-familiar passage. There are tremendous lessons to be learned in Jesus’ encounter at the well with the Samaritan woman. But in attempting to look a little bit beneath the surface I saw something I had never seen before. It came out as I looked more closely at the woman’s responses to Jesus. She found herself in an uncomfortable spot – a Samaritan woman, of questionable moral integrity – stuck in a conversation with a Jewish rabbi, when all she really wanted was to get her water for the day and go home. The last thing she was looking for was small talk with a Jew. They were enemies. But here she was. And little did she know that this was a divine encounter that would change her life forever.

Immediately, Jesus tells the woman, “Give me a drink.” It’s almost a command. She was probably expecting silence. Instead, she gets a request. She is shocked and expresses her surprise in her response. “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” (Vs 9 NLT). That’s when Jesus launches into His familiar lesson on living water. But this part of the discussion escapes her. She doesn’t get it. He is communicating on a spiritual level, but she is stuck in the physical realm. He is talking about eternal things. She is mired in the temporal.

That’s when it struck me. Look at her response in verse 12. She says, “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us this well?” (Vs 11 NASB). Jesus has just offered her living water. But she analyzes her circumstances and sees that Jesus has no means of drawing water from the well – Jacob’s well – the only source of water she has ever known. She had a limited perspective and a single source of sustenance. All of her life, she had placed her need for water in one place – Jacob’s well. She had relied on it and it had supplied her need. At least the need that she was aware of. But she had greater needs. And she had other resources. How do we know? The passage tells us. Jesus tells her to go and call her husband. She responds, “I have no husband.” But the truth is, she had HAD five different husbands and was now living with a man who was NOT her husband. This woman had a need. She was thirsty for a lot more than water. And while Jacob’s well had quenched her physical thirst, she had been looking everywhere for something or someone to quench her thirst for love, recognition, significance, worth, joy, and contentment. She had “gone to the well” six different times in an attempt to satisfy her emotional and psychological thirst. But nothing had worked.

Now Jesus was standing right in front of her, offering her a new source of sustenance – Himself. But when Jesus confronts us, and offers us living water, we are faced with a dilemma – will we believe Him? Or will we ask the same question she did? “You are not greater than ________?” Fill in the blank.

“You are not greater than my job, are You?”

“You are not greater than sexual fulfillment, are You?”

“You are not greater than money and material things, are You?”

“You are not greater than a husband or wife, are You?”

“You are not greater than recognition, are You?”

“You are not greater than entertainment, are You?”

What’s your “Jacob’s well” this morning? What have you been relying on to meet your needs? You see, until we acknowledge the fact that we have other things we depend on more than Jesus Himself, we will never turn to Him for what we really need. As long as this woman thought her thirst could be quenched at a well dug by the hands of men, she would always be thirsty spiritually. As long as she thought her emotional thirst could be quenched by yet another physical relationship, she would never be satisfied. She had to accept the fact that, yes, Jesus WAS greater than Jacob. Jesus was greater than Jacob, Jacob’s well, her five husbands, her current live-in relationship, her water bucket, her friends, family, or her religion.

Jesus IS greater! But do we really believe that? Do we live like it? The truth is, we ask Jesus some form of that same question every day of our lives. He offers us more, but then we ask, “But are you really greater than ________?” We doubt that He can do more than what we are already doing. We question whether He can deliver more than those resources we are already comfortable relying on. So we settle for less. He offers living water and we settle for H2O. In our search for satisfaction, we must come to the point where we admit that our sources are far inferior to Jesus. He is greater!

Father, forgive me for allowing other things and other people to replace Your Son as the primary resource in my life. I turn far too often to things other than Him in an attempt to meet my needs and quench my thirst. But they never satisfy for long. They just leave me needing more and looking elsewhere. Help me trust the words of Jesus Himself, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst again!.” Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org