Great Springs National Park in Great Falls, Montana
“So Isaac left there, camped in the Valley of Gerar, and lived there. Isaac reopened the water wells that had been dug in the days of his father…. Then Isaac’s slaves dug in the valley and found a well of spring water there” (Gen. 26:17-19).
Isaac reopened wells dug by his father, Abraham. But he didn’t find living water until he dug his own wells. (“Living water” is a more literal translation of “spring water”).
When Jesus offered living water to the woman at the well, she said, “You don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep…. You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are You? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and livestock” (John 4:11-12). Jesus didn’t dispute Jacob’s greatness or that he dug the well. Instead, He stated a fact: “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But…the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life” (John 4:13-14).
Jesus contrasts outward wells that satisfy with the inward well of His life. We may try to slake our spiritual thirst at innumerable outward wells. Like the woman at the well we adapt to trudging back and forth with our bucket–ironically increasing thirst as we work to satisfy it. These wells may be worldly things. Or they may be wells of our fathers–traditions, doctrines of celebrated teachers, our common heritage of Christ.
When someone points us to the water of Christ, we may react like the woman: “Who do you think you are? Are you greater than the believers and teachers who came before? They gave us these traditions and teachings and drank from these themselves. Our spiritual heritage is from them!”
Like Jesus, we don’t need to argue about the greatness of our fathers or the value of the wells they left. We just need to stick to facts: Traditions and teachings handed down will slake spiritual thirst for awhile. But they will leave us thirsty again. Only Christ springing up within will totally, enduringly satisfy.