What We Need More Than Anything

What We Need More Than Anything

Our fundamental problem is that we’re sinners. But our fundamental problem doesn’t mean it is our most severe.

In John 4, Jesus and his disciples traveled through Samaria. They came to a town called Sychar and decided to stop for a break. It was around noon. The disciples went into the market to buy food, leaving Jesus sitting beside the well of a nearby field. Soon after a Samaritan woman arrived there to draw water.

She is a person like you and me, a person whose fundamental problem is sin.

“Give me a drink,” Jesus says to her. Now she is confused that he would ask this. He is Jewish and she is Samaritan and this type of request is uncommon, as John explains (John 4:9). “Why would you ask me that?” she basically replies. And then Jesus gets at the heart of the matter: “If you knew the gift of God,” he says, “and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).

We See What’s Worse

At this point something amazing has happened. It’s like the scene freezes. Jesus answers her with these extraordinary words and we learn that this woman’s fundamental problem of sin is eclipsed by a more severe problem of ignorance. That more severe problem is that she doesn’t know who Jesus is.

It is horrible that this woman has had five failed marriages, not to mention that she is presently living with her boyfriend. But more horrific is the fact that she is speaking to the only person in the universe who has the power to forgive her and she quips about his ethnicity. She has no clue who he is. She doesn’t understand that she is speaking with the one who, in a matter of time, would suffer on the cross in her place, absorbing all the wrath she incurred by her adultery and faithlessness, removing her sins from her as far as the east is from the west. She doesn’t know Jesus, not until he leads her out of darkness.

Notice her journey. She identifies Jesus as a Jewish man first (John 4:9). Then she perceives that he is a prophet (John 4:19). Then she suspects he’s the Messiah (John 4:25). And then, along with a crowd of others from her town, she believes him to be the Savior of the world (John 4:42). From an obscure, thirsty Jewish man in verse 9 to the promise-fulfilling, life-giving Savior of the world in verse 42, the Samaritan woman once was blind but now she sees.

What We Need the Most

What she needed more than anything — what we need more than anything — is to know Jesus. Our most severe problem would be hopelessness in solving our fundamental problem. Our most severe problem would be that we don’t recognize Jesus as the only rescue from our sins.

But you and I are like this woman. Jesus came to her and he has come to us. Sinners as we are, unable to recognize the Lamb of God, he has come to lead us out of darkness. He has come to make us see and meet the deepest needs of our souls. He can do that right now.

Right now as you read this, no matter the shame of your past or the plight of your situation, Jesus will forgive you if you trust him, if you turn from your sin and embrace him — his death and victory for you — as your only hope. For he came to call sinners (Luke 5:32), like the woman at the well, like you and me.


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Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary .