Where's your bucket?

When I want water here in the UK I turn on a tap and water comes out, simple as that. Elsewhere in the world it is considerably more difficult to get this life-sustaining resource. The same was true in Jesus’ time: wells were dug many metres into the ground and buckets (or the like) with ropes attached were dropped down into them to collect and retrieve water. So if you hadn’t got a bucket, you wouldn’t get any water.

Thirsty one day, Jesus was next to a well but didn’t have a bucket (John 4). A famous conversation then ensued between Him and a Samaritan woman in which He not only asked for water but offered her water. Her response was very practical: ‘Where’s your bucket?’ You can’t get water unless you have a bucket. His reply was extraordinary: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (vv 13-14).

The conversation had changed from being about life-sustaining water to life-transforming water: a picture of the Holy Spirit coming into a person’s life and their being born-again into new life (John 3:3-8). The woman tries to debate with Jesus where God’s followers should worship Him (i.e. which well should they use): Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem but Jesus tells her that location is no longer important: “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (v 23).

He taught something similar later in John 7: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38). Jesus was inaugurating the age of the Holy Spirit where God would now dwell in His people. No bucket required! Rather than going somewhere and doing something to meet with God, He has now come to you, and will abide in you as you abide in Him. Reading John’s gospel and letters you’ll find this is one of his major preoccupations (e.g. John 15:4, 1 John 4:13).

The funny thing is, Christians can still be tempted to go to wells and seek to use buckets. Certain things must be done, maybe even in certain places, and then God will be with me. But Jesus clearly taught that buckets are no longer needed because He abides in His followers and thus living water flows from them. I am in no way minimising the place of spiritual disciplines in a Christian’s life or the value of helpful techniques in church life (both of which I make good use of) but I felt God spoke to me today about not treating those things as buckets. I don’t need a bucket, I have Jesus in me.