by Michael E. Brooks
“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him and he would have given you living water’. . . . ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life’” (John 4:10, 13-14).
Bangladesh is the world’s largest delta, situated at the confluence of two great South Asian Rivers, the Brama Putra and the Ganges. Hundreds of navigable streams criss-cross this nation, producing extremely fertile soil plus abundant water for crops and human use. Ironically however, one of Bangladesh’s many needs is pure safe water for consumption. If there were ever a case of “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink,” it is in Bangladesh.
Many factors contribute to the poor quality of Bangladesh’s water. Unchecked pollution, high saline content due to proximity to the ocean, arsenic in the soil, mineral contaminants such as iron, and bacterial contamination are but a few of these. American travelers are accustomed to the warning, “Do not drink the water when in other nations.” In Bangladesh even the local people try to avoid drinking the water. Bottled water and purification filters are a common sight everywhere.
As Jesus passed through Samaria he stopped to rest, eat, and drink. When he asked a local woman to give him a drink from Jacob’s well, he was following a long tradition. This well was noted for its history, its dependability, and the quality of its water. When she questioned his request, it was not because it was unreasonable, or because the water was poor, but simply because she was not the sort of person that a Jewish man would normally talk to, let alone ask a favor of.
As their discussion continues however, Jesus does point out shortcomings of the water from Jacob’s well. It may be abundant, pure, and cool, but it will not provide lasting satisfaction. No matter how much one might drink, he will eventually need more. Physical thirst is recurrent; it will never be permanently sated, short of death. The very best water the earth offers cannot satisfy for more than a few hours.
Jesus uses this fact to point out that we as humans have other thirsts than the physical, and that there are other types of water which can satisfy those thirsts. Living water is a metaphor, which addresses the many necessities of life. Jesus says those needs can be met, if one drinks from the proper well.
Just as there are many sources of water in Bangladesh, but few that are pure, so there are many metaphorical streams from which humans drink. Humanism, atheism, Marxism, Islam, Hinduism, Budhism, Voodoo, Animism and many other religions and philosophies seek to provide answers to the basic questions of life, and to meet our spiritual, emotional and intellectual needs.
Many today argue that we should sample from this buffet and take that which seems best to us personally. They suggest that there are many possible paths to our goal, many drinks that satisfy.
Jesus denies this. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Only he can give living water which satisfies not just for a day, a year or a lifetime, but eternally. Those who drink the water which Jesus gives will live forever, and will never thirst. There is no pollution, contamination, nor impurities in his water. Only life.