I cannot help but see the woman at the well as a bucket – much like the one she had brought with her to draw water the day she met Jesus.
If she is a bucket, then she is an old and leaky one, full of cracks and holes, barely fit for purpose. At least, that’s how she’d come to see herself, reminded every day by the stares and hostility of her neighbours at her less-than-perfect lifestyle. And an empty bucket, too. Worn down, dried up, and fed up, with nothing to offer. That’s how they see her, so perhaps that’s how she has begun to see herself.
Jesus changes all that. He has no bucket at all with which to draw from the well, yet speaks of living water that can overflow from him to her and from her and bring her life.
Even she would not have dared hope that that living water would have worked such wonders in her so quickly. Indeed, the conversation alone with Jesus has filled her so full of life and hope that, leaving her bucket by the well, she returns to her city and shares what she has experienced with others.
Jesus chose well. He chose a vessel that was broken and cracked, and filled it with life-giving grace and love, knowing that it would leak and spill, and that everywhere it leaked there would be new life and hope, springing and welling up to eternity. For the best witness to grace is not the perfect life but the redeemed life. The leaky broken bucket scatters its water further and more generously than the sealed, watertight bottle.
God has always chosen leaky buckets. When he chose his people, the descendants of Abraham, he chose them not because they were perfect, but because in their weakness his strength would shine through. The Bible reads like a catalogue of God choosing and working with the outcast, the very young and the very old, the unlikely, the poor, the foreigner….
Jesus poured the water of life into the leaky bucket of a Samaritan woman with a questionable past and an even more questionable present. And through her that water of life brought life to a whole city.
Jesus still has no bucket of his own. But he asks us to use ours. We may have the shiniest, most perfect watering can or drinking bottle, or we may, like the Samaritan woman, be full of holes and cracks. A cracked pot will generously spill its precious contents in unexpected and wonderful places, and a small vessel will overflow sooner than a big one…. We come in all shapes and sizes, there is no one perfect pot into which God can pour his love, for with an infinite amount of love being poured, we will all overflow.
May we rejoice in our leaky buckets and our small vessels, but most of all rejoice in the water of life that Jesus will pour into us, so that when we overflow, everyone around us may receive new life.