I had a real taste for beer during my college days. I went to school in Charleston, South Carolina and that town provided plenty of locations in which I could indulge. There are plenty of bars and watering holes to choose from in the downtown area.
But in all of those weekends out on the town, I never found a watering hole I was willing to call home. You know, like Norm in that old TV show Cheers. A place where "everybody knows your name."
Ironically, I found out I was looking in the wrong places for such a watering hole! I discovered the perfect place! Here's why...
It's called Jake's Watering Hole. Just for clarity's sake, in spite of the name, Jake is not the actual owner, but we'll get to that in a moment. At Jake’s you drink for free! That’s right, you read it correctly, free! Now, to all my fellow Baptists, slow down and finish reading. There's plenty of seats at Jake's for you too! ;)) Here's the most amazing part: when you get a drink at Jake's, one drink, you are never thirsty again and you never want to look for another watering hole!
Remember, I'm an ordained, Baptist pastor. I don't even drink alcohol for health reasons. Nonetheless, I am excited about Jake's and I still go there all the time! Hopefully, you will understand why after you read this testimony of a woman who was one of the first customers of Jake's. She writes:
“I used to go to Jake’s everyday. I went there just to get some water, and nothing else. Honestly, just water. That’s why I always went there around noon, because there was no one else at Jake’s during that time of the day. Most other women went there at other times and I just didn't want to put up with their judgmental looks and sneers. It hurt too much.
But one day I went to Jake’s and I saw this man. He was sweaty and looked worn out and he was just sitting there alone. He looked like he’d been traveling. Well, when I walked up I felt relieved because he was of that different race. This was in the days when his race and mine didn’t get along and his people wouldn’t even speak or come near my people.
So, I saw this as a blessing because he wouldn’t talk to me and I would be left alone as usual. But you know, so many men come to these watering holes just to find a woman. So, I was also a bit disappointed. This guy was not available. In those days, I guess, I was still hoping "Mr. Right" would take me in. It seems all of my life I heard these stories of men finding their wives in places like Jake’s. When I saw we weren't the same race, I knew he wasn't an option.
Anyway, I went to get some water, and the man spoke! To me! He actually asked me for a drink! Usually, we women get the drinks for the men, so that didn't surprise me. But of all the women, why ask me? Maybe he wanted to be available after all. Well, I was shocked to say the least. I mean our two races didn’t get involved with each other. I couldn't help myself, I asked, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?"
When I asked him this, he said something that kind of took me off guard. He said, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked him for a drink and he would have given you living water.’ Well, I noticed this guy didn’t have a drinking glass, mug or even a bucket and I asked him how he planned to provide this water. I mean I liked good fresh drinking water. Living water from a fresh spring is the best kind. That’s why I always went to Jake’s. They served the best living water for drinking.
But what this guy said next really shocked me. He said, ‘If you drink the water here, you’ll be thirsty again, but if you drink the water I give, you will never thirst again. It would be like a spring of water welling up inside of you bringing you to eternal life.’ O.k. I now knew this guy had been in the sun a little too long. First he asks me for water to drink, then tells me he has water of his own that somehow should have kept him from ever getting thirsty again. Yeah, right! I told him, sarcastically of course, he should just give me some of this water so I wouldn’t have to go to Jake’s everyday.
Then he pinned me down. He said, ‘Go get your husband and then come back.’ Wow, that stung! Let’s just say my love life wasn’t ideal at the time, so I just tried to keep him off the subject and I told him I didn’t have a husband. But he said something painful, and amazing. He said, ‘You’re right when you say you don’t have a husband. You’ve had five husbands and you’re not even married to the guy you’re with now! So, what you have said is true.’
He was right. None of my husbands would keep me. I was a woman of scorn who had five men find indecency in me and divorce me. Women can't file for divorce in our culture, only men. I was trash. Certainly, I was dung among the trash in the eyes of the Jews, but this Jew was different. How could he have known this? He didn’t say it in a hurtful way. He said it in a way that was caring, almost like he wanted to help me fix my life.
It was obvious he was some kind of prophet or preacher and he seemed to have a direct line with God. But as amazing as this was, it scared me and it was a can of worms I just didn’t want to open. So, I changed the subject, sort of. I asked him a theological question to take his mind off of my screwed up life. I asked him about where and when worship was supposed to take place, because his race and mine didn’t agree on this. Also, I wanted to see how he could possibly know so much about me.
He said, ‘Believe me woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet, a time is coming, and has now come, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.’
I was amazed. He explained more about God to me in one breath than I had ever known. Then it dawned on me. He knew things about me no Jew could know and he knew God. He didn’t just know about God, but he knew God. It was then I realized this was no ordinary Jew. This was no ordinary man. This was the true owner of Jake’s. As it turns out, he owns everything else on the planet. This was the One who reached out to a hated race, a hated woman and introduced me to God for the first time in my life! All of a sudden, I found myself saying the Messiah was coming and he would explain all things. Then the owner of Jake’s Watering Hole, named Jesus, gave me his living water and said, ‘I who speak to you am He.’ He is the Messiah and my Savior. He knew me better than I did and loves me anyway. He knew God better than I did. He brought God and me closer together than ever before. Yeah, I’ve been to Jake’s Watering Hole. My soul has never been thirsty since.”
For this woman's full story, check it out in John 4:1-45. Jake's watering hole is Jacob's well near Sychar. Throughout the Bible, men found their brides at wells, (Isaac, Jacob, Moses, etc.) In the Bible, it was a type of "romance story" to put it in modern terms. Let that tidbit along with ancient Jews and Samaritans hating each other inform us as we read Jesus' disciples' reaction to finding Jesus talking to her. It is John's way of weaving in some humor into the Gospel he wrote.