Weariness, thirstiness, hunger, disappointment, shame, longing—all very real parts of our lives, and all found in this account of Jesus’ encounter with a woman on the edge. And yet there is more—there is satisfaction, release, and joy. That is the enticing surprise in the story, that those very real parts of our lives can be turned around, and not be the last word in the account of our lives.

The most satisfying, fulfilling thing that a person can do—the thing that results in a sense of the goodness of being God’s person—is to do the work of God. Jesus began this account thirsty, weary and hungry. And yet his satisfaction came not from having his appetites met, but rather from having the true hunger and thirst fulfilled—being caught up in what God his Father was doing in this world. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Another way of saying this is that the most satisfying reality in life is to be in worship, in service of the Father of love.

The woman Jesus met and from whom he asked a drink, had been hungering and thirsting all her life. She had tried in a series of doomed relationships to suck out something of lasting satisfaction. When Jesus gently but strongly opened up that sad history, she turned immediately to a religious question—which actually is a question about true worship. Jesus answers her by opening up to her that she isn’t yet seeing large enough, big enough. The Father is working to create a world full of true worship—through the fulfilment of His purposes in Israel—a world full of worship that is by the Spirit and is true.

This woman now is thirsty, really thirsty, for the gift of eternal life, the thing that will take away all the weariness, thirstiness, hunger, disappointment, shame—and her way into that fountain of life stands before her. The Messiah—Jesus himself, who will hunger and thirst for righteousness right up to a cross, where his side will be pierced and a flow of water will come, symbolising the fountains of living water he is bringing for us to drink freely, the gift of the Spirit.

The fountain of life comes where Jesus forgives sins. He speaks us today—in these words and at the table where we eat and drink, fed by him. He is announcing to us forgiveness of sins—and opening up for us this great joy, this wonderful gift of life, that we can now walk in his ways, do his will, live for what is true and right.