John is clearly eager to follow up Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus with Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. The two characters are perfect opposites. Nicodemus is a respected Jewish rabbi. This unnamed woman is a lonely Samaritan outsider (an outsider to the Jews and even to her own people). And yet, she is the one who listens to Jesus and learns and grows, while Nicodemus, for being a renowned “teacher of Israel,” can’t comprehend a single word Jesus says. So Jesus has no patience for Nicodemus, but great patience and love for the woman who is willing to hear him and allow him to turn her life upside down. This all could be summed up by the most striking contrast between the two – while Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, the Samaritan woman meets Jesus at noon in broad daylight.
At first, she’s puzzled by Jesus, especially when he offers her “living water.” But he offers it to her a second time as water that doesn’t satisfy thirst, but abolishes thirst altogether. This living water isn’t simply the best and final cup you’ll ever drink. It is the life lived so richly in the presence of God that everything we thirst for, everything we desire, everything promising us fulfillment and security lose their power over us. It is the death of desire. It is the life in which “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” are not just words but our actual reality. The living water even becomes a spring overflowing from within us and out from us into the lives around us, which is exactly what happens next.
After Jesus surprises her with a knowledge of her past (an embarrassing past that doesn’t deter Jesus from loving her one bit), she feels no choice but to rush home and tell every neighbor possible about the most exciting person she’s ever met. “Come and see!” she exclaims. “He can’t be the Messiah, can he!?”
At this point Jesus’ disciples approach, offering him a meal. He gives them a similar teaching he gave to the woman. His food, his true source of nutrition and sustenance, is not bread or fish or meat, but the ongoing life lived in perfect accord with the will and mission of God, a mission into which his disciples have been invited to participate. The mission didn’t start with them, but they’re called to reap the plentiful harvest of open ears and willing hearts all the same. Like the Samaritan woman, there are people everywhere ready to fall in love with Jesus. The seeds of that love have been planted, and it’s for the followers of Jesus to come behind and reap.
While the disciples are hearing from Jesus about evangelism, the Samaritan woman is actually doing it. She’s gone back to her village with the word that Jesus is someone they have to meet and fall in love with for themselves, and they do just that.
Jesus enters into the lives of broken people to deliver us from our constant thirst and desire, and this deliverance from constant thirst and desire overflows out of us into more and more broken lives. We accept the constant invitation to come and see Jesus for ourselves. And when we do, we find in him the death of desire, the joy of which cannot help but spill into the lives of those around us.