Who is the “Living Water”?

Jesus never claimed to be the Living Water.  He said, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).  Jesus claimed to “give” living water, not to “be” living water.  Here’s why:

Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38).  Then John comments: “By this [living water] he [Jesus] meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (John 7:39a). 

While Jesus does not identity who the “living water” is in John 4 (only that he “gives” it), a few chapters later the “living water” is identified as the “Holy Spirit.”  You never see Jesus saying, “I am the Living Water.”  But you do see Jesus saying, “When the Counselor [the Holy Spirit] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me” (John 15:26).  Jesus claimed to be the dispenser of the Spirit of truth, the “living water” of John 4. 

So if someone asks you, “What is the Living Water of John 4,” don’t say, “Jesus.”  Say, “the Holy Spirit.”  Because John 7:38-39 says so.

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The Health-Wealth Gospel Is From Jacob’s Well

Jesus contrasted the living water he provides with the impermanent nature of the water in Jacob’s well (John 4:13-14).  The temporary quenching of Jacob’s well-water made me think of the temporary “quenching” of things in the world.  “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17). 

There you have it.  The things of this world are passing away.  And yet…there are many televangelists who preach from Jacob’s well.  They preach the things found in this world.  They preach that God’s will for believers is health and wealth.  Get rich, get well, halleleujah.  The danger in such a message is that Jesus’ emphasis is completely missed: being a True Worshiper of the Father through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (John 4:23-24). 

Preachers should not rely on Jacob’s well for sermonic content.  The Bible doesn’t promise the American dream for believers, and preachers commit a terrible deed in misleading people that the Bible assures such a thing.  To hear that God wants “your best life now” is to hear a message from Jacob’s well.  It is not “living water.”  It is not transformative.  It is a temporary quenching, and you have to return again and again for such messages (John 4:13). 

A message that promises bigger houses, finer cars, healthier bodies, better relationships, and a “better you” is a message from Jacob’s well.  It’s not about getting more.  Jesus is not a self-improvement, life-enhancement product.  Jesus is Lord of the universe.  Repent of your sins and believe in His death on the cross for sinners.  Drink of the “living water.”  Be changed by the water from Jesus, not the water from the world. 

And don’t believe the message of health-wealth gospel preachers.  Such a message is from the bottom of Jacob’s hundred-foot-deep well.  In fact, the message is from a place much deeper than that.

Why Our Flesh Wants (And Drinks From) Jacob’s Well

In the Gospel of John, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well during the hottest part of the day (John 4:1-6).  He promised what He could provide was greater than the water from Jacob’s well.  “Everyone who drinks this water [from Jacob’s well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

There are two wells, you see: one that doesn’t satisfy, and one that does; one that doesn’t end thirst, and one that does; one that doesn’t bring newness of life, and one that does. 

Jacob’s well represents every promise of the world that is impermanent and misleading.  Jacob’s well is the pursuit of more money, the glitz and glammer of a life in the spotlight, the prestige and power from social position, and the chasing after pleasure in all its various wind-like forms.  Our flesh likes Jacob’s well.  Why?  Two main reasons, I think. 

First of all, Jacob’s well offers water of convenience.  Indeed, the woman desired convenience from the water Jesus proposed.  “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water” (4:15).  The woman was not seeking new life; she was seeking what was convenient for her.  She wanted water that was at her service, at her whim.  The woman could go to Jacob’s well whenever she wanted, how often she wanted, and take how much water she wanted.  But Jesus’ living water is not so managable.  Jesus’ water is not for your convenience.  It’s not about you. 

Second of all, Jacob’s well doesn’t demand personal, moral transformation.  The woman had five husbands in her past, and presently lived with a man who was not her husband (4:17-18).  She could come everyday at noon to get water from Jacob’s well, and still live in her immorality.  But not so with Jesus’ living water.  Such water brings renewal, cleansing, transformation. 

Jacob’s well says: “Serve the god you want, at no cost to yourself.” 

Jesus’ well says: “Be a True Worshiper of the Father, take up your cross, and follow me.”