Everyone has regrets. We regret the words we let fly and never live down; the opportunities we messed up or ones we never took up; relationships we let slip and ones we should never have begun. There are all those past actions for which ‘redemption’ seems impossible.
The playwright Arthur Miller, put it this way, ‘Maybe all one can do, is hope to end up with the right regrets’. A woman at a well in Samaria two thousand years ago would have agreed.
Like us, she longed for happiness but it had eluded her. Five failed marriages testified to that. Thinking that love and marriage would give her life meaning and happiness, she thought that each new man was Mr. Right. But each time she made the same mistake. Her life was a mess. She felt insecure, lonely, and dissatisfied.
But there came a day when her life was transformed through a conversation with a Jewish man. Transgressing social taboos, Jesus initiated a conversation with her through a simple request for water from the well. He didn’t talk about her life or matters of faith – at least to begin with. Rather he spoke then, as he speaks to us today, with concern and respect. However, it wasn’t long before he took the conversation further by speaking about living water. It opened up the opportunity to talk about her regrets.
In John 4:12-15 we read:
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus offered her water that would satisfy her deep inner spiritual thirst. He was saying that he is the answer to the regrets and emptiness that gnaw our souls.
Most of us aren’t willing to acknowledge this – and the woman that day was no exception. We pretend we’re doing well, but the reality is that we often live closer to despair than we admit. So we endeavor to offset our sense of emptiness by filling our social calendar, making money, being ‘a success’, even pursuing sexual adventure. But it never works.
No matter how successful we are, no matter how intense the emotional relationships we might experience, nothing can be a substitute for the relationship with God for which we were made. If we are going to find Jesus’ answer to our regrets, first we have to acknowledge our need.
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet…” (John 4:16-19)
Suddenly she realized that Jesus, whom she had taken for a progressive Jewish man, was nothing less than a prophet with supernatural knowledge of her sin. She knew enough about religion to realize that she was being challenged to sort out her relationship with God.
The big question was where to do this–the temple in Jerusalem, or a house of worship in Samaria? Jesus’s response is, in today’s world, politically incorrect: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:22-24).
Only when we receive the spiritual life that Jesus brings us can we become true worshippers of God, beneficiaries of this living water. It involves a heart response to Jesus.
The woman responded, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us”. Jesus’s words are breath-taking, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you” – literally, ‘I who am speaking to you, I am’ (John 4:26).
Twelve hundred years before, God had revealed his name to Moses: “I am that I am that is my name”. Jesus was not just claiming to be the Messiah but to be one with God.
The water he promised would not just quench her thirst for real life, but would bring her into a deep, satisfying, and eternal friendship with the one true, creator-redeemer God.
© John G. Mason