(Image Credit: We Heart It.)
They say that her name was Photina. Of course, it’s only a
rumor. Maybe her name was Darcy. Or maybe it was Damaris. The Bible simply
describes her as a Samaritan woman. The name Photina means light. But this
woman’s past was shrouded with darkness. Wearing the name tag “Samaritan”,
meant that she was a total outcast.
At this point in history, the Jewish people hated the Samaritans, and the Samaritans were not too fond of the Jews either! A feud of unforgiveness boiled in their blood. Jews called the Samaritans “dogs” or “half-bloods” because their ancestors (originally Jews) intermarried with Assyrians.
We don’t know the details of her story, but we do know that she was born on the wrong side of the tracks. She was seen as unclean, unwanted, and uncherishable. Chances are pretty good that her value and self-worth were record low.
She might have come from a broken family. She might have been a prostitute. She might have hated herself.
So what was her name? Jesus knew her name. Even though they’d never met, He knew everything about her. He knew the day she was born, how many hairs were on her head, and every detail of her mysterious past. He knew her, because He was the One who created her.
He knew that she had many lovers, and felt like an outcast. He knew that she wasn’t the most popular girl in town. He knew about all the whispers and rumors that spread about her like slithering snakes through the city streets.
Even though she had a shadowy past, He chose to meet her in broad daylight.
“So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from his journey, thus sat by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.” (John 4)
Most women gathered water from the city well every day. They probably gathered around with excited chatter, socializing, giggling together, and enjoying tasty tidbits of gossip. But this woman didn’t join the others. She had seen their hateful stares, unwelcome glances, and even though they never said anything to her face, she knew that they whispered behind her back. It was much less painful to gather water when the city was quiet, and no one else was around.
But today, her lonely trip to the well was disturbed by a stranger. I imagine that Jesus probably looked tired. His feet were probably muddy, and dust clung to his robe, from the long journey. “Give me a drink,” he spoke.
She must have froze in the middle of her task, shocked to hear those words come out of his mouth. What was this Jewish man doing speaking to her? Didn’t he know that she was a Samaritan? Didn’t he know that was totally out of line and socially unacceptable?
“The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan. How can you ask me for a drink?”
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.”
Don’t you love how Jesus has the gift of taking a totally normal, everyday conversation and turning it into something super bizarre and awkward? He was always saying things that made absolutely no sense to the people standing around him. Why would He suddenly start talking about “living water” to a woman He had only met like five seconds ago?
If you read the whole passage and explore the exchange between them, you find that this woman had some great responses, and really gives Jesus a run for His money in this conversation! She has a mind of her own, has some questions she wants answered, and doesn’t waste any time seeking for those answers. She quickly perceives that there is something different about Him, and calls Him a prophet.
He totally reads her mail, and tells her about her five husbands, and the guy she’s living with now.
She asks about the promised Messiah, and when Jesus reveals that He is the one she’s been waiting for her whole life, she totally freaks out. She drops her water basin, and dashes back into the village. She tells everyone, “Come see a Man who told me everything I ever did! Could He be the Messiah?”
This encounter with Jesus completely changed her life. Biblical scholars say that she went on to be the first ever female missionary. They say she spread the good news of the Gospel everywhere, and evangelized huge numbers of believers.
After Jesus died, rose again, and sent His Holy Spirit, when persecution came to the church, they say that Photina stood strong. They say that she was threatened by leaders who wanted her to shut up and stop talking about Jesus. But when she refused to do so, she became a martyr.
They say that after she was killed, they threw her into an empty well. How crazy is that?! The same woman who heard the words, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of living water welling up to eternal life” was threatened with the fear of being thrown dead into an empty well. But she had the promise from Jesus! She wasn't afraid of death, because after drinking from His abundant goodness, she never ran dry. And even when death came knocking, she had the promise of abundant life! Whether this part about her story is true, or only a rumor, it sure is beautiful to think about.
My heart totally relates with Photina, and maybe yours does too. There are days when the dry bareness of this life feels like it's going to totally engulf and swallow me up. This life can feel like a desert.
Psalm 63:1 says, “O God, You are my God, I shall seek You earnestly. My soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for you in a a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
There is so much pain, brokenness, and disappointment in the landscape of this world. Dusty desert sands fly up suddenly in a whirlwind, making your eyes sting with tears, and your throat ache from being so thirsty. But where is the water?
We search for water in a lot of places. Like Photina, sometimes we search for water in the arms of our lovers. We try and find water in social media, music, entertainment, friendships, success, achievements, food, parties, or reaffirming pats on the back. The very depths of our souls are always longing to be filled with something real. Something exciting. Something electrifying that will bring us to life, and make us burn with passion. We don't want to be dead. We don't want to be numb. We don't want to be in pain. We want to feel totally ALIVE. But the day-to-day bareness and boringness of this life can take its toll. So where do we find our water?
Tragically, I can be just like Photina, looking for water in all the wrong places. Jeremiah 2:13 says,
“My people have committed two sins. They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns that cannot hold water.”
In the desert, we are so deceived. In the middle of the swirling sands, we see a mirage form before our very eyes. Our imagination tells us that water is near, that refreshing has come...all we have to do is run to it! As we stumble forward, we hug the dream, only to realize that the vision has vanished. So we dig a well, and create a water source of our own. All we have to do is kiss the cute boy. All we have to do is become the most popular girl in school. All we have to do is hang out with our friends, and we will feel better again. We think we will be filled up, and joyful again. But the waters of this world can never, ever sustain us. Why? Because they're not even real.
A mirage cannot be held, hugged, or ever truly experienced. The Bible reminds us of this truth by saying that this life is a vapor. It's a mist. It's a mirage. It's here for one second, and it's gone tomorrow.
So it is in the desert. Those visions of beautiful streams of life, pouring forth from a boyfriend, a successful life lived, or your dreams coming true...are only shifting images that will soon disappear.
Sisters, this life is so, so short. Paul reminds in 2 Corinthians 4:18:
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. Since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
King Solomon talks in Ecclesiastes about the vanity of this life. He sounds like a crazy man as he cries out, “Vanity! Vanity! It's all vanity! Everything under the sun is meaningless! There is no point! I've been rich, I've partied, I've been in love, I've known the ladies, I've had success, I've built my palace, I've drunk from the cisterns of this world...and it has STILL left me unfulfilled. I am still thirsty! I'm still aching! I need living water!”
If everything under the sun is meaningless, that means that we have been called to something greater. We have been created for more than this. We have to rise above the sun. We have to go to Heaven. We have to fix our eyes on the unseen, Heavenly realm! We have to find living water that comes from a source besides this earth. We have to lock eyes with Jesus, the only One who can truly satisfy. We must drink deep from the waters of Heaven, the waters of His love!
The enemy deceives us with shifting shadows, but the water that Jesus offers is REAL. God's goodness isn't a joke. It isn't a mirage or a feeling. It's the most real, solid, unchangeable and unshakable truth. James 1:16-17 says, “My brothers and sisters do not be deceived, every good and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of heavenly lights who does NOT change like shifting shadows, with whom there is no shadow or turning.”
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of living water welling up to eternal life,”
The book of Ezekiel and the book of Revelation talk about a river of living water that flows from the throne of God. I believe that this river of life and love gushes from the very heart of our King. It is an expression of His passion, vibrancy and desire toward us. It is like a thundering waterfall, like ocean waves that endlessly pound upon the shores of our souls! This river of living water is pure, eternal, and never, ever, ever, EVER runs dry.
“And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there, for they will be healed, and everything will LIVE wherever the river goes.” (Ezekiel 47:9)
If this world is a desert, we have the solution. They are broken and barren, just like we used to be, before we jumped into the river of God and He totally overtook us! We have the answer for everyone running around in desperation, chasing deceptive images in the desert. We have the living water of Jesus Christ! We can touch our friends on the shoulders, just like Photina did, and say, “Hey, you don't have to live like that anymore. You don't have to cut yourself, sleep around, or party all weekend long, only to find yourself even thirstier than you were before. I found the Answer! His name is Jesus!”
Our lost friends and family have violent appetites. They are so ravenously hungry for Jesus and His presence, they just don't know that's what they're looking for. They don't know that the river of God is when Heaven invades Earth, and every dream that they never knew they had suddenly comes true. They've never looked into the eyes of Love, and felt Him fill up their souls with living water. But they will. If we, like Photina, have been transformed by this Jewish Man, the son of a carpenter, who is the Son of God – we will tell them! We will flip this world upside down when we drop our empty water jug, run back home and cry out, “Come see a Man who told me everything I ever did! Could He be the Messiah?”
And if they think we're crazy, so what? If they threaten our lives, who cares? If they say, “I'll throw you in an empty well of suffering and death!” What does that matter? We have the living water of Heaven! We have eternal life. We are transcendent. We are connected with the River of God, which always overflows in abundance.
God's river of passion and desire is so strong, nothing and I mean NOTHING can stop it. He desires to break out into this broken world, give His water, and pour out His Spirit on all flesh! And perhaps the most amazing part of it all? He wants to use you to do it.
Jesus said, “the water I give them will become in them a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.” You have streams of living water FLOWING inside of you. Can you feel it bubbling up like a bursting fountain? Is your cup overflowing? Can you feel that the love of Christ is about to explode through you, and break out into this desert world?!
God wants to use you as an extension of the river of God, a stream that is an extension to Him. Jesus said that He is the Vine and you are the branches. This river is bursting at the seams! Water always travels downward. Water is so humble. It begins in the heavenly rain clouds, and pours itself out at the top of the mountain. But it doesn't stay there. It goes lower, lower, and even lower. In the waterfall, it freely gives of itself. Then it tumbles into multiple streams; flooding and filling the whole earth.
Are you a stream that God can flow through? Are you connected to His life giving water works?!
Water doesn't freak out in fear and say, “Oh no! I can't flow, I can't give, or else I'm gonna run out!”
We must tell that voice of fear to shut up. Running out is not what water does, and that's not what love does. If water doesn't keep traveling, giving, giving, and giving of itself, it becomes stopped up and stagnant. It becomes like a still pond. All sorts of diseases and unhealthy things grow in stagnant water (and stagnant love!) It's totally gross! You don't want to become like the Dead Sea! God has poured SO much into your life, so give freely! Throw yourself down in joyful abandon, and pour yourself out like a cascading waterfall.
I promise you that if you stay connected to the Vine, to the Living Source of Water, Jesus Christ, you will flood the earth with God's glory and goodness, and you will never, ever run out. There is enough in the heart of God to give endlessly and benevolently. There is always, always enough.