Living Water

This post is written by Michael Kimpan, our Associate Director at The Marin Foundation.

Jesus was tired.


The journey to Galilee was a long one and, as was custom, Jesus led his band of misfits through the Samaritan countryside. They had gone into the city to buy food, leaving Jesus alone with his thoughts at the ancient well, dug some 2,000 years beforehand by their forefather, Jacob.

He watched as the Samaritan woman approached, water pitchers in hand. She must have passed by his disciples along the way. Jesus wondered how they had treated the woman — if the seed of his story on being a good neighbor had yet taken root in their minds. When she arrived at the well, the Rabbi spoke.

‘Give me a drink.’ Jesus said.


Knowing her place, the woman was stunned. ‘How is it that you, being a Jewish Rabbi, would speak to me – a Samaritan woman?’  The very act of drinking out of her water jug would make this Jewish teacher ceremoniously unclean.

No self respecting Jew would dare do such a thing. 


The woman wondered if he wanted something more than just water from her. She shuddered at the haunting memories of men she had known and attempted to ignore the stinging sensation in her soul. This man was likely just like the others. She had tried for years to forget, but she remembered. She would always remember.

His gentle voice interrupted her thoughts.

‘If you knew who I was, you’d be asking me for a drink. I have access to living water — whomever drinks of the water I give you will never be thirsty again.’

‘That would certainly be a time-saver,’ she thought. ‘Give me this water so I won’t be thirsty and will no longer need to come all the way out here to draw.’ It was a long walk.

The Rabbi asked her to fetch her husband.

‘I don’t have one.’ Those words were painful to speak.

Jesus pressed in, sensing her need for something to quench her spiritual thirst.

She had tried medicating with men. It wasn’t working, and her current live-in suitor had a fear of commitment. As she spoke with this stranger about the intimate details of her life, her protective instincts forced her to change the subject.

She exploited their differences.


‘You Jews say YHVH is to be worshipped in the Temple in Jerusalem, on Mt. Zion. We Samaritans have built our own temple on Mt. Gerizim since we have been considered outcasts by your people for centuries.’

Her blood boiled at the injustice and arrogance of those that deemed themselves pure bloods. The history was more complicated than that. She’d had ‘conversations’ with men like this teacher before.

Yet there was a subtle thought — a longing deep within her that believed this one could be different. Perhaps he had something that could bring life to her desperate heart after all.

 ‘An hour is coming — it’s here now — when where you worship doesn’t matter,’ Jesus said. ‘My father doesn’t care which temple you worship him in. He cares that you worship in spirit and in truth. God is spirit – so when you worship God, you must worship him with more than just the outside — and in sincerity.’

She looked forward to that day. The Scriptures promised of a liberating king who would come and make things right. ‘When he comes…’

‘I who speak to you am he.’


The woman ran back to her city to share the life-giving water with her companions. ‘See for yourself — he is the one!’

The disciples, meanwhile, had come back — amazed to find Jesus speaking with a woman. No one said anything, for fear they were missing something.

I fear we may be missing something, as well.

When the Scriptures were written, parchment was expensive. Ink was expensive. The authors of the letters and stories and narratives we encounter in our ancient sacred text gave us only the information they deemed absolutely necessary – it’s up to us to read in between the lines, understanding that context and usage determine meaning.

As we look at the stories of Jesus standing in solidarity with those previously pushed to the margins of society by the religious elite such as this story from John 4, we must ask ourselves :: What is really going on in this story?

Could it be that our demands for others to conform to our way of thinking about God — where and how he is worshipped — is missing the point of what God is doing in our midst?

Could it be that through his spirit he is drawing people to himself, just as he did with the Samaritan woman in the midst of her own religion?

Or is the work of Jesus limited to the religion of Christianity? If so, who’s version of Christianity? Do some get it wrong? Are others right? Who gets to decide?


What do you think?


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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation ( He is the award winning author of two books and a DVD curriculum, and his new book Us Versus Us: The Untold Story of Religion & the LGBT Community, will release June 2016. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and Christian involvement in reconciliation. He is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland where he is researching and teaching at the University of St. Andrews, earning his PhD in Divinity. His research focuses on the theology and praxis of social reconciliation between victims and their perpetrators. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Eric Masters

    I’ve recently noticed something about this story that I hadn’t seen before. We all know Jesus is talking to somebody who is basically thrice-damned. Not only is she a woman, but she’s a samaritan. Not only is she a samaritan, but she’s “promiscuous.”

    We’ve all heard this before- but I think we are missing something. I’ve heard before that she didn’t choose to be a woman or a foreigner, so we can probably forgive those but the promiscuity is on her. Or is it? A woman in this time didn’t have control of whether or not she married someone, let alone divorce.
    This was a woman who had been discarded time and again. Jesus stepped through layer after layer of taboo to not only converse with this woman, but went out of his way to make her one of the first people who knew who He really was. And in time her entire village was delivered through the woman who was drawing water in the heat of the day, presumably to avoid the other women who would historically draw in the morning.

    • michael j. kimpan

      great insights, eric. i’ve heard that perspective before as well, and think there’s merit to it. regardless of the cause for her divorces, her culture would have looked down on her and she certainly wasn’t ‘worthy’ to be talking with jesus, who didn’t seem to care about her social status, but instead chose to (yet again) stand in solidarity with the so-called Other.

      thanks for sharing!

    • Pam Herbert

      Your perspective is beautiful. You saw what Jesus saw…a person “thrice-damned”. Her gender was her doom in her culture.

  • sheila0405

    Is the work of Jesus just limited to Christianity? Somehow I just don’t think so. I am a Christian, a Catholic, who left Protestantism behind when dealing with all kinds of interpretations from various versions of the Protestant Bible. I was surprised to learn that Catholicism recognizes the fact that God can work in all religions to bring men to Himself. After all, if we believe that God knows the number of hairs on our heads, He certainly wouldn’t be hamstrung by the fact that some people live in regions of the world where the name of Jesus is completely unknown. Indeed, if we believe God creates each of us with a purpose, on purpose, if you will, then isn’t He the one who carefully and lovingly created each human on the planet? Dare I presume He even planned where they would be born, live, and die? We try to evangelize by putting people into our own concepts of God and salvation, and fail to simply observe what Jesus did. He met people exactly where they were. He lovingly revealed Himself to them. We can do no better than that. Every person has a story, and we must listen. Every person has inherent dignity, and we must respect that.