This is one of my favorite paintings by William Bouguereau. It’s called “The Broken Pitcher” and it’s in the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. The picture doesn’t do it justice at all. It’s a huge painting and the expression on the girl’s face is priceless. The stupid pitcher is broken and now she’s going to have to go home and get another one. What an annoyance. She stares out at you as if you were the one who caused her to drop it. You distracted her, and now look what you’ve done. I love Bouguereau.
The painting came to mind as I was going through the second part of the story of the woman at the well in John 4.27-42. Her life was a lot like the pitcher this girl was carrying. Whatever it used to be, it’s now broken and useless. But who is this stranger at the well?
The woman has been confronted by Christ and he just told her that he himself is the Messiah. What is her reaction to that news? She leaves her water jar and rushes off into town to tell other people! Her jar isn’t as useless as the one in this painting, but it is no longer important to her, nor is water. She has found the Messiah! She must do something.
Water jars get left behind when one has just had an encounter with the Messiah. What does she do? She does the same thing that Andrew and Philip do when they meet the Messiah, she rushes into the little village and says, “Come and see.” She must tell someone, and so she does.
Did she ever retrieve her water jar? One assumes she did when she returned. How differently the trip back to town must have been carrying that water jar on the return journey. She had gone out to the well just another poor sinner, but she was going back as a daughter of The King.