A small life

‘ ….and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.” That’s the start of the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. He asks her for a drink and then there follows a conversation, a courteous conversation, which ends (wait for it… wait for it….) with Jesus stating that he is ‘I am’. He is God.

That woman, that fortunate woman, heard from his own lips that he was God. When she set out with her water jar she wasn’t expecting to come across the God of all creation, to make the most startling discovery ever made, to hear the greatest claim that could ever be spoken… but that’s what her ordinary day held for her. She didn’t imagine that the great Messiah who was to rescue Israel and conquer the world would be a dusty, weary, hot and thirsty wandering Jew. But he was.

‘The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

Wowser! Her trudge to the well, in the blazing heat of midday (forget all the theories about why she was drawing water at noon), became a monumental moment, written in history, a central point in Theology, and maybe (who knows?) the turning point in that woman’s life.

Sometimes, when the day is long and the work seems thankless, when the water we draw will soon leave an empty jar that needs to be filled again, and again and again…. when the walk to the well is lonely, and we’re a bit fed up with the same old routine….. and the people we’re serving are just plain ungrateful…. we can be lost in our thoughts so that we hardly notice the man sitting at the well, waiting.

We talk so much about the Samaritan woman, but how much thought do we give to the thirsty man? Yes, yes, we know Jesus is God, but how much thought do we give to Jesus the man? It was noon. The disciples had gone to find food. He was weary and so he sat down, in the blazing sun. Maybe his lips were cracked, maybe his mouth was dry, maybe his muscles ached. The God of all creation. And he wanted water. The God of all creation, that ordinary man, had no cup. The water was there, and he couldn’t reach it. He wasn’t Superman or Batman or any other super hero, able to use his superpower to satisfy his whim. He was our servant God, our fully human Creator. You know, when you’re really thirsty and you’re in a dry climate under a blazing sun, and you come across a well, you can almost smell the water. The God of all creation, and he was thirsty! The God of all creation could see the water in his mind’s eye, taste it in his longing, smell it in his need.

I can’t think of a single instance in the Gospels when Jesus used his omnipotence to serve himself. And he didn’t now, at the well, when all he wanted was a simple drink of water. He came to Earth as man and that’s how he lived.

I’ve always had the habit , when I hear a narrative that doesn’t come to a conclusion, of finding my own conclusion and mentally ‘writing it in’. We don’t know if the woman gave Jesus a drink. We aren’t told. But in my narrative, as she lowers the bucket into the well she says a wry smile, “You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do you get that living water ?” and – in my mind – as Jesus replies, he leans across and hauls the bucket onto the wall of the well for her, precious water splashing onto the mud bricks… and (again, in my narrative) there’s quiet amusement in his voice as he replies “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.’ and he plunges his hands into the glistening water, scooping, ” … the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” And then, in my narrative, he lowers his head and drinks and drinks and drinks, delighting in it… and the woman watches him and turns the words over in her mind, and sees something unworldly in this simple man, and she asks “Sir, give me this water, so I’ll never be thirsty again.”

Anyway, that’s what I imagine. My lovely God, delighting in cool water in the heat of the day. Totally divine and completely man. Ahead of him lay shame and suffering and death, but he was never only a man of sorrows… he was also a man who gathered friends, a man people flocked to be with, a man who ate with his adopted family, who drank fresh water, who shared wine, who built a fire and baked fish (Ah, hang on, Luce, that was the Resurrected Christ… maybe the fire was not so much built as spoken into being!), who slept in the gunnels of the boat, who felt pity and anger and sadness, a man who prayed, who exasperated his friends and a man who wept. He was a man we can all love. A man of simple pleasures.

That’s a lesson for all of us. Jesus led a small life. His pleasures were simple.

What are our simple pleasures, the daily gifts we can really delight in and give thanks for? Shall I tell you one of mine? Well, you can’t stop me, so here goes – my morning ritual, when I return from walking the dogs is unvarying. I make a strong coffee, heat the milk, toast two waffles, slice a pear and then I sit down with it at my desk and read the news section of theTimes online.

Sometimes I add strawberries!

Such joy in small things.

I do pray, sometimes, that when Jesus walked the Earth as man, he knew loads of small pleasures. Daily. I pray that daily he found comfort and joy in little moments of grace. Maybe he loved being man? I hope so. That maybe, even as wholly man, as he drank that wonderful crystal water, he sensed that one day a woman in West Wales would think of him with love, and that maybe, just maybe, that was one of those tiny moments of joy. Knowing that he was loved, is loved.

We all need to know that we are loved. And we are.

There’s another moment of joy, just knowing that we are loved.

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