I find it fascinating that Jesus can take just about any kind of interaction and turn it into an in depth theological conversation that changes peoples’ lives.

Jesus and his disciples were traveling from Judea in the south to Galilee in the north. The region of Samaria lay in between. Most “good Jews” would completely bypass Samaria, going many miles out of their way to avoid stepping foot in the region. But not Jesus. He takes his disciples straight through.

When they got near the town of Sychar, Jesus hung out by the well outside town while he sent his disciples to go find some food. (It’s nice to see these disciples doing the tasks of lowly interns!) While Jesus is chilling by himself around noon, a woman came up to the well to draw water. Instantly, this sends all kinds of messages about what kind of woman she is. Most women in the town would have gone out together early in the day when it was cooler, and they would help each other out and socialize for a while. Not this woman. She waited and came by herself.

Jesus knew all he needed to know about this woman. She has been passed around from man to man. She had cycled through five husbands and then had seemingly given up on marriage. Now she was shacking up with a guy she wasn’t married to. Not exactly the kind of woman your average “good guy” would want to bring home to meet his mother.

Jesus knew all this about her and more. He knew what kind of woman she was. He knew how it would look if he struck up a conversation with her. He should have ignored her. He should have pretended she was invisible – just like everyone else did. He had absolutely no business interacting with her.

But come on, that’s not Jesus.

     When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
     The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
     Jesus answered her, “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.”
     “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
     Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 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 said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
(John 4:7-15)

Will you give me a drink?

I really appreciate the glimpses of Jesus’ humanity in the gospels. Sometimes we get too hung up on the fact that he is the Son of God that we forget he is also the Son of Man. He is fully divine AND fully human. He got hungry, tired, angry, sad, and thirsty. He had been traveling all day. He’s thirsty. Here comes a woman with a rope and a bucket.

Will you give me a drink?

It’s such a simple request, yet in these circumstances this was absolutely shocking. Even she was taken aback. She was probably bracing herself to be scorned and ridiculed – at least non-verbally.

My wife went in to talk to one of the after-school program directors about our youngest son’s behavior. He had not been all that pleasant for them. Our older son had told us some things – from his perspective, at least – but we needed to really hear what was happening. When she told me about the interaction, she told me that the director was super tense and bracing to be yelled at. She was timid and defensive and apologetic. But the more my wife reassured her that she did nothing wrong and that we weren’t upset with her at all, her whole body language and demeanor changed. She was relieved. This poor woman was so used to being yelled at by other parents, that was her go-to reaction when my wife just had some questions about our son’s behavior. We felt so bad for her!

I can imagine this Samaritan woman responding in much the same way. Guarded… defensive… skeptical… confused?… relieved… curious…

All these reactions taking place in the seconds after being asked a simple question:

Will you give me a drink?

He is putting himself at her mercy. It’s up to her to say yes or no. He probably could have told her, but he asked. He put the ball in her court, so to speak. His question required her to stop and think through the situation.

Jesus never demands anything from us. He never forces us into a situation. There’s always the option to say no to him. In fact, that’s what plays out in the scariest scene in the Bible. In Matthew 25 Jesus foretells of a time when everyone will be sorted as “sheep” and “goats” to his right and to his left. The “sheep” are those who clothed him, fed him, tended to his needs, visited him. They didn’t know it was him, but whenever they did those things to “the least of these,” they were showing hospitality to Jesus himself. Conversely, those on his left were those who couldn’t be bothered to show hospitality or kindness to “the least of these.” Whenever they turned their backs on someone in need, they turned their backs on the Son of God.

Jesus would also tell his disciples this in Matthew 10:40-42 –
     “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Will you give me a drink?

John would tell us in his first epistle,
     If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
(1 John 3:17-18)

Or the preacher in Hebrews reminds us,
     Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
(Hebrews 13:2)

This woman had no idea who was asking her for a drink of water. Jesus, stunningly, reveals to her that he is in fact The Messiah! This was the first and one of the only people to whom he openly unveils his true identity. Would she deny The Messiah a drink of water? More importantly, would she accept the Living Water which The Messiah is now offering to her?

Will you give me a drink?

So often we fall into the trap of thinking God requires big things from us. We think that we’re not really good Christians unless we go on mission trips or lead Bible studies, or convert our entire sports team, or pastor a church, or preach to thousands on TV or in stadiums across the country. But God rarely calls people to great things. More often than not, God calls us to do “little things with great love” (as is the legacy of St. Therese of Lisieux).

Jesus is not asking this woman for anything spectacular, just something to quench his thirst. And in return, he offers her something that will quench the thirst within her, the unsatisfied desires she has within her that keep her hostage in this lifestyle of chasing love from men. This little action of giving a drink didn’t change Jesus’ life, but it most definitely changed hers.

“Will you give me a drink?” Jesus asked.

If you want to learn more about the importance of Christian hospitality, I highly recommend the book Stranger God, by Richard Beck. It’s a phenomenal read.