Aqueduct - and Living Water

Reading: John 4.4-26
The Burdekin is "built on liquid gold", as the welcoming signs tell us. The secret of our visible success isn't the visible Burdekin River - for much of the year a relatively small stream and an expanse of sand. The secret is the water below the sand - the underground water throughout the whole delta region. All the farmer has to do is sink a spear and pump it up - the expensive part that some envious people fail to grasp!

Water is essential to life. It is possible to survive for many days without food, but not many without water. All the cells in our body need to be "topped up" regularly.

They say that "bread is the staff of life." That's true - without food we cannot live. But water is "the stuff of life" - without water we will die.

Herod set about building the city of Caesarea in 22BC. He wanted it to be the most grandiose city imaginable. Breakwaters formed a safe harbour. The grand entrance was marked by colossal statues and made safe with a massive oil-fuelled lighthouse. There were a palace, an amphitheatre, a hippodrome, a temple dedicated to Caesar - and an advanced sewerage system!

Such a city needs water. To bring water to Caesarea, the Romans built an aqueduct to bring water from a spring in the Carmel range. It was some 17 kilometres long and had a fall of one in a thousand - without the benefit of modern laser-levelling technology! The aqueduct is conspicuous on the beach to the north of Caesarea. No city can survive without a water-supply.

It was some distance away that the events in today's reading took place - just under 50 km "as the crow flies." Jesus was heading north - from Judaea to Galilee. We are told "he had to go through Samaria."

Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. With the fall of Samaria in 722 BC, the Assyrians had transported people of another race to live in the land so no other country would get the idea of taking over. The Samaritans had added some Jewish beliefs to their own religion and set up a temple on Mt Gerizim in Samaria ("this mountain" in v. 20).

When the people from the southern kingdom of Judah (the "Jews") were returning from their own period of exile, the Samaritans obstructed their reconstruction work as much as possible. So the Jews of Jesus' time had no love of the Samaritans and crossed the Jordan rather than go through Samaria when they were travelling between Judaea and Galilee.

This makes it rather striking that Jesus "had to go through Samaria" - for reasons not at all apparent to the disciples until the incident with the woman who came to the well to draw water.

It was midday ("the sixth hour") - not the usual time to draw water. This woman was avoiding contact with the other women of the village. It was unusual for a Jewish male to ask for water of a woman - and a Samaritan at that.

Jesus was thirsty - he needed a drink. But here was a woman with a deeper need - a need for the "living water" that only Jesus could give, "living water" that would become in her "a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (v. 14).

The aqueduct served Caesarea's need for water for many years. But the city is now ruins - for the lack of "living water."

Do you ever "run dry"? We all become emotionally and spiritually drained if we fail to "tap in" to the spiritual resources our Lord is offering us - "living water" that becomes "a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Do you know someone else who "runs dry"? The "spring of water" is not just for refreshing you. It is given to you so that it will overflow and refresh others too. Are you ready and available for that?

Prayer: Sometimes, Lord, we are like that woman of Samaria - we have needs we try to hide from others and scarce acknowledge to ourselves. But you see us - you know! And you know that this dryness will never be overcome if we keep trying to live without you. Lord, give us this living water so that we won't get thirsty. Yes, Lord, a spring of it so that others will be refreshed as well! In Jesus' name, Amen.

Living Water

I feel
I give and give
dry and empty
I scarce know how to live.

I try to meet
the needs
of others
to fill
and spiritual void
to bring
and cheer.

Yet I end up
wrung out
void of help.

The living water
is at hand -
freely offered,
freely given!
Not another well
to run dry,
but a spring -
welling up
and flowing out.

Yes, Lord!
Your living water,

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Blue Care devotions, 29 May 2001
More photos of Israel are available here.
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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