Exodus 17:1-7, John 4:1-26, John 7:37-39
Last year I took a trip to Israel. We arrived during the harvest season, when the vineyards were heavy with purple grapes lining the sides of the highway. Our guide, a local man named Yaov, talked about the grapes with a kind of enthusiasm I wasn’t expecting. As an American, it was strange to hear someone so excited about the grape harvest. I had assumed the harvest was just a natural and ordinary part of the agricultural cycle. No big deal.
When we asked Yaov why he was so captured by those grapes, his answer caught me off guard. He said, “When I see those grapes there, ready for harvest, I see water. Water in the desert. It’s a miracle, if you think about it.”
Today’s readings are all about water. For most people, water is one of the most common commodities, readily available at the turn of a faucet knob. But for people living in a desert before the days of indoor plumbing, drinkable water was not always easy to access. It’s also heavy and difficult to transport.
In Jesus’s day, getting a drink usually meant going to water—a well, a spring, a river, a cistern, or a household container that had to be refilled manually. Water represented the daily toil of staying alive.
When the people of Israel made their exodus from Egypt, they escaped into a desert where they would die without a water source. God gave them water, not from a spring, a well, or a river, but from a rock—the least likely source one could have imagined (Exodus 17:1–7). This miracle was for the simple purpose of keeping God’s people alive.
Later, when Jesus met the woman at the well (John 4:1–26), she was there doing what her people—and all people—had been doing every single day of their lives. She was gathering water. She had come the day before to do the same task. And the day before that. And she’d be back the next day for more. She was doing the hard work of living in this world.
To this woman—and by extension, to us—Jesus offers relief from the burdens of this life’s difficulties. There is only one place where we can find that relief, the kind of water that will slake our thirst forever. We will no longer need to go to another source for life. Instead, eternal life will spring up from within us (v.14). Christ is that source. And He doesn’t offer temporary relief; He offers everlasting relief (John 7:37–39).
As you read today’s passages, think about your own need for water. Think about what it feels like to be thirsty. And think about what Jesus is saying when He offers Himself as a source of water that will take away our thirst forever. At Christmastime, we celebrate the day Jesus came to earth to bring us that water. He stands at the door and knocks, offering Himself to us. Are you thirsty? He is water in the desert.
Written by Russ Ramsey