I love it when I read a super familiar story in the Bible and a phrase jumps out at me that I’ve never noticed before. It’s especially neat to me when I had no intention whatsoever to read that particular story, but God “made me” because He wanted to say something specifically to me through a wayward detail I’d never paid attention to in previous readings. He’s a neat Guy that way…
A few days ago that’s exactly what happened.
Some “random” person on Facebook posted one “random” verse from the story about the woman at the well, and my eyes couldn’t help but read it as I scrolled through my “news” feed. (Apparently, I’m “quote happy” today…)
The plain little verse that caught my eye was John 4:28, “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people…”
I’m not sure if the Facebook poster posted the next verse as well because my eyeballs stopped dead in their tracks over the first detail: she left her water jar.
The whole reason she had made the trek to the well in the first place was to get a jar full of water for her and her family. They needed this water not only to complete household tasks, but, more importantly, to drink! They needed water for their physical nourishment, and it was this woman’s responsibility to bring it to them. Their very lives depended upon her bringing home a filled jar…
Why in the world would she, then, leave her jar there by the well and go home empty-handed?
A modern-day comparison would be if I had absolutely no food in my house and I took a reusable bag to the grocery store (I know, that alone would never happen), drop the bag in the middle of the store, and drive back home with absolutely nothing to eat or drink for my family (all right, so that last part isn’t as far-fetched…). My family would go hungry that night, and they’d probably be pretty upset with me for my irresponsibility.
What prompted the woman at the well to leave her all-important water jar behind when she returned home?
Was she simply so distracted by the fact that she had just met a man who knew unknowable things about her (John 4:17-18) and claimed to be the Messiah (John 4:25-26) that she merely forgot to take her jar with her?
Or was she so excited to discover the Messiah she’d been waiting on (John 4:25) that she just didn’t care about physical things like water anymore – she just wanted to get home to share her discovery with others?
If I met Jesus in the grocery store, it’d be understandable that I might be a little distracted and/or over-the-top excited and perhaps forget to pick up the pre-cooked chicken and frozen green beans for my family’s dinner that night…
Or was God, ever a fan of symbolism, making a bigger theological point by including this seemingly unimportant detail in the story – namely, that because the woman had found living water – that is, she recognized Jesus to be the Messiah, the Ultimate Quencher of her spiritual thirst – she consciously decided to leave her water jar behind because she realized she no longer needed it (John 4:13-14)?
I think there’s a good chance all 3 reasons are valid.
Of course, after meeting Jesus, the woman was still human – so she still needed literal water to survive, whether she had “accepted Christ” or not.
But there’s also the chance that upon meeting the Messiah on aisle three of Krogers (if you know me at all, you laughed at that pluralization) I would consciously think, “I’ve just met the only One who can fully know me, and He does, and He is so loving I can hardly stand it! I don’t need any other thing in this world, not even that tub of the best ice cream in all of creation (Blue Bell’s Rocky Road, for those of you who are out of the loop). I am fully satisfied having been in His presence.” Perhaps the woman at the well had a similar thought…
I’m not typically challenged to leave grocery stores empty-handed… food is so plentiful in most of America I take it much more for granted than the woman took her jar of water. She knew her desperate need for that jar of water. It was her physical life line. It was everything to her, in one sense, because her life depended on it’s contents.
But when she met Jesus and began to understand who He really was, she left her jar.
What’s your jar? What do you value? Does your enthrallment with Jesus make you forget all about your jar? Does your fulfillment in Jesus make you realize you don’t need your jar as much as you thought you did? Or are you more attached to your jar than you are to your Jesus?
Jesus is so incredibly more sufficient than the finest jars we possess. As we come to understand this about Him, we’ll no longer find our security in our jars. Instead, we will be fully satisfied in Jesus.