Loving Water

It's around noon, and Jesus hangs out alone by a well in Samaria. The disciples have gone into town to get food, but Jesus is tired. Jean Vanier points out that this is the only time in any of the gospel accounts where Jesus is explicitly tired. It's been a long walk in a dry climate, and so Jesus is also thirsty. So when a woman comes to draw water from the well, he asks if she will draw some for him. 

The conversation that follows in John chapter 4 is famous. The woman is confused about why he's asking her for water - Jews and Samaritans don't usually mix. But Jesus, thirsty and tired, avoids her attempts to deflect. Jesus is interested in the water in the well, but he is more interested in sharing a more metaphorical water with her. This woman is thirsty, she has a 'past', but Jesus loves her regardless of what she has done or what has happened to her that she might be ashamed of, and Jesus is out to quench her thirst. She is thirsty; Jesus' heart is that she would never thirst again. 

But there's more. In the Bible, meetings at wells are often significant. 

Abraham's servant finds Rebekah - who will be Isaac's wife - at a well after he asks her for something to drink. Moses met his wife Zipporah and Jacob (whose well Jesus and this unnamed Samaritan woman drink from) also met Rachel at a well. 

Jesus isn't hanging around a well just because he's thirsty. Jesus is hanging around a well so that he can meet someone to love. Jesus is hanging around a well because he knows that the world is thirsty, and his love is the only well that can slake that thirst. 

In other words, Jesus is hanging around the well because he is a lover, a lover like the lover of Song of Songs: passionate and unflagging and self-giving, even erotic. Jesus came to the well for the same reason that Jesus came to the world: to find his Beloved.

And he finds her. 

Yes sir, Yes sir, Three bags full

In John's gospel, Jesus is the Lamb of God (1:29), Jesus is the gate by which the sheep enter (10:7), and he is, of course, the good shepherd (10:11). So he plays every role of that metaphor. Of course clearly in chapter 10 and in his commands to Peter in chapter 21 people are his sheep. But it seems people are sheep only insofar as they participate in the life of the Lamb. Thus, Jesus controls the boundaries of his flock (gate) and he leads his flock (good shepherd), but also the shape of his life defines 'sheep-hood' itself. Peter's charge to feed Jesus' lambs, take care of his sheep and feed his sheep are founded in his love of Jesus (x3) and in the fact that, like Jesus, one day he will stretch out his hands, be dressed and taken where he does not want to go, glorifying God in his death (21:15-19).

Jesus is the sheep par excellence.