On a hot day, when this attractive, vivacious, confident woman goes to a well to fetch water she needs it as a daily necessity. It's the bottom level of the pyramid of needs. We have no idea how satisfied she is with the rest of her life in terms of emotional needs and self-actualization. When this stranger by the well asks her for a drink she knows this is wrong. She points it out: You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? (John 4:9). Meet her and he will be ceremonially unclean.
We could never guess how the story continues. And it's a pivotal point. Jesus tells her that if she knew who he is, she would ask him for a drink and he would give her living water. Isn't this total absurdity? Sitting by a well, which she points out is deep and he has nothing to draw up the water, Jesus is offering her a drink! We don't blame her for not understanding. She points out the impossibility and chides him for thinking he is greater than Jacob who gave the well. Jesus replies that those who drink the well water will be thirsty again but those who drink the water he will give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. And this makes no sense either. Is it with a mocking tone that she responds how this will be good so she won't need to keep coming back to the well?
And then the conversation suddenly turns. Because we have just considered righteousness we know that Jesus is concerned about all of our lives. When he asks her to call her husband she replies she has no husband. To which Jesus agrees and reveals the truth of five previous husbands. She can live in a better way. This is the challenge that matters - behaving well, behaving God's way. Righteousness matters.
Conversation deepens and the wonder of her learning is summed up in verse 20. Then leaving her water jar the woman went back to town and said to the people: Come see a m an who told me everything I did. Could this be the Christ. (I once heard a sermon just on this verse). She went for water but this is now secondary. She has met Jesus. She's not quite the full poster-girl for this Beatitude but she's on her way.
The learning curve from water to LIVING WATER is steep. The disciples don't get it either when Jesus tells them he has food to eat that they know nothing about. For all of us whose lives are summed up by the pyramid of need it's a huge step to think of yearning for righteousness.