In J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous series The Lord of the Rings, a creature called Gollum becomes consumed by an obsession with the One Ring. Gollum was originally a hobbit-like creature known as Smeagol, who murdered his friend to take possession of the ring shortly after he discovered it.
Smeagol’s family later shunned and exiled him because of his deceitful and disruptive ways when using the ring, which made him invisible. Gollum had an insatiable hunger for the ring and its power. He centered his entire life around owning it and recovering it after he lost it, and it cost him everything.
Although our cravings may not be as extreme as Gollum’s addiction, we all have things we desire in life. Children chase after an extra cookie or longer time at recess. Adults desire certain relationships or positions at work. We all tend to place a higher priority on pursuing those things that we believe will satisfy a longing in our hearts. We were created to hunger and strive with the hope of satisfaction; the question is “What will satisfy?”
In John 4, Jesus encountered a woman at a well. Although she may not have realized it, this Samaritan woman was needy for a solution to her sin; as with all people today, apart from Christ, we are all enemies of God.
Jesus highlighted her need for a permanent solution to her deepest thirst, telling her that she should be begging him for a drink of the water he was able to offer—“living water.”
Without new birth in Christ (see John 3), we all have dirty hearts and we are all riddled with sin. Our sinful nature has estranged humanity from God since the fall. In fact, not only are we estranged from God but our sin causes there to be enmity, or hostility, between God and us (Rom. 1:28-32; Eph. 2:1-3).
All of us are thirsty, longing for something that will satisfy us completely. How we each try to satisfy our thirst looks different from person to person: for some people, it looks like viewing pornography; for others, it looks like working endless hours, always needing to move up to the next thing. But the need is the same in every circumstance; we are in need of Jesus and connection with him to fulfill our deepest longings.
Fortunately for us, God loves his enemies and works toward our reconciliation. In The Grace of Giving, Stephen F. Olford illustrates this through an encounter between a Baptist minister named Peter Miller and his friend, George Washington. Olford writes:
In the days of the American Revolution there lived at Ephrata, Pennsylvania, a Baptist pastor by the name of Peter Miller, who enjoyed the friendship of General George Washington. Also residing in that town was Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all in his power to abuse and oppose the pastor.
One day Michael Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to death. Pastor Miller, traveling many miles on foot, walked to Philadelphia to plead for Wittman’s life. When admitted into Washington’s presence Pastor Miller at once begged for the life of the traitor.
“No, Peter,” said Washington, “I cannot grant you the life of your friend.”
“My friend!” exclaimed the preacher. “He is the bitterest enemy I have.”
“What?’ cried Washington, “you have walked all these miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in a different light. I will grant the pardon.”
And he did. Peter Miller took Michael Wittman from the very shadow of death and returned him—no longer an enemy, but a friend—to Ephrata.
Miller’s intervention on behalf of Wittman is just a shadow—and an outworking—of God’s reconciling love for us. God made a way for us to receive the “living water” we so desperately need—the gift of the Holy Spirit, who grants eternal life to those in whom He dwells. Jesus made this gift possible for us by his death on the cross in our place.
The living water—the Spirit—that Jesus taught the Samaritan woman about satisfies completely. The Holy Spirit fills us with eternal life and helps us to worship our Maker as we ought—in Spirit and truth.
Furthermore, the Holy Spirit leads us to share the good news of the gospel with others so they too can join in the worship of God. Jesus not only taught about the living water of the Spirit, he also made it possible for us to drink of the living water.
When we encounter Jesus as the Messiah and believe in him, we may receive and drink the living water only he can provide. And only through Jesus can we worship in Spirit and truth because he is the revelation of God. Because of the Father’s gifts of the Son and the Spirit, we are motivated to share the good news of Jesus with others so they can believe and join in the worship he provides.