Water of Life

“I was thirsty and you gave Me drink.” Matthew 25:35

Lori Peckham is a professor of communication and English at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. She is also a writer and editor.

PAUL SMART DROVE THROUGH the esert of Ethiopia. As country director of ADRA Ethiopia at the time, he was visiting some of his territory. He noted with sadness the emaciated cattle, the parched dirt with no trees, and the people who looked like skin and bones.

As he got out of his vehicle to enter a village, he greeted a small boy standing beside the path. The boy appeared to be about 9 years old. They said a few friendly words to each other, and then Paul asked him, “Would you like a drink of water?”

It was a simple offer—nothing that would excite most children. But Paul knew that this village was experiencing a severe famine with drastic water shortages.

“No. No thank you,” the little boy replied respectfully. “Today is not my turn to drink water.”

Paul was taken aback by this answer, but he knew exactly what it meant. In this drought-devastated area, children get a drink of water every second day—if they’re lucky. The rest of the time they must live with the dryness in their mouth and their whole body. When they do get water to drink, it’s often muddy. Most likely, it’s also contaminated with bacteria, which can cause life-threatening diarrhea to someone who is already dehydrated.

Clean water is essential to survival. The average human can live only three days without water, depending on climate and physical exertion.

Jesus began to explain to her that He was speaking of Himself, of His gifts of love, righteousness, and eternal life. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,”
He said, pointing to the well, “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman still didn’t fully understand and said, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Seeing her thirst for righteousness, Jesus broached the subject of her relationships. She had attempted to fulfill her needs in the wrong place—which is a temptation many
people experience. Just as those who are physically thirsty are tempted to drink whatever water is available, no matter how contaminated, people who are thirsty emotionally, mentally, socially, or spiritually try to meet their needs with whatever is close at hand.

It might seem to quench their thirst initially, but then it causes diarrhea or cholera and initiates a deadly spiral into disease, addiction, or dysfunction. The very thing we crave can kill us—if it comes from the wrong source. We must question our cravings and submit them to God. What we all need is pure, clean water—water that
restores and nurtures health. Living water.

Maybe that’s why Jesus compared Himself to water. In John 4 we read about a journey He was taking from Judea to Galilee. He passed through Samaria and sat to rest beside Jacob’s well. He was tired, hungry, and thirsty from the journey, and His disciples had gone to buy food. But He didn’t have anything to use to draw water from the well to quench His thirst.

Then a woman showed up to get water. “Will you give me a drink?” Jesus asked her kindly.

The woman replied, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” The Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans, so this stranger’s request
surprised and confused her.

Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

The woman, intrigued by His words, probed, “Where can you get this living water?”

Paul Smart told of how he sometimes sat in his office in Addis Ababa, watching the rain fall outside. He knew that just a three-hour drive down south, however, there wasn’t  a drop of rain. He desperately wanted to make sure everyone had the water they needed. Sometimes it involved trucking water down to them from the highland areas. Sometimes it meant repairing wells or getting boreholes functioning again. Sometimes it meant introducing water purifying equipment to an area.

In the same way, sometimes people need a good dose of God’s love shared with them. Sometimes they need just a reminder—perhaps a simple prayer. Sometimes they need a new start, to feel forgiven and purified and able to move on. But all these needs can be met through only one source: Jesus.

“If there’s just one night’s rainfall,” Paul observed, “the people in Ethiopia will all be there on the grass, gathering the water from puddles on the ground. Water is like gold here in these parts of the world. And people will do anything to get it.”

We too should be willing to do anything to have Jesus in our life. We should do whatever He asks and give up anything in this world to follow Him. The Bible promises that if we seek Him with all our heart and with all our soul, we will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29).

He Himself said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. . . . Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them” (John 6:35, 56, NIV).

We should crave Jesus like we crave water and food. In Psalm 42:1, 2 we read David’s words: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (NIV).

Only Jesus can ultimately satisfy every thirst. He is the living water. Let’s drink of His love every day and share it with others.