2nd Sunday in Lent
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,
Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink. Have you heard that phrase before? It comes from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It means that out at sea you can be surrounded by water everywhere but not have a drop of water to drink. You see, water is absolutely important for our bodies. It’s likely that none of us have been around or seen someone die of thirst. Our bodies are made up of mainly water- 55-60 percent. In fact, if you had no food and no water, you would eventually die of dehydration before you would die of starvation. Since water is such a big part of your body if you don’t have it every part of your body cries out for it: headache, muscle cramps, then your tongues swells, your throat feels like its on fire, there’s intense burning and searing pain, before you lie down in torment and die. Now, if you’re stranded out at sea and you’re surrounded by water it can be awfully tempting to drink sea water to satisfy your thirst. But it doesn’t work. Sea water is 3 percent salt, that’s more salt than your kidneys can process so your kidneys actually have to use more water to dilute the salt, so drinking salt water actually causes you to die of dehydration faster and make you thirstier all the while. That’s how important water is to our bodies. But what Jesus says here in our text is that He has something that our souls need way more than our bodies need water and our bodies really need water. What Jesus gives is living water, soul-quenching grace. It’s a gift of God and a soul satisfying spring of water.
First, it’s a gift. We’re told that Jesus went through Samaria, in fact, the text says that Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” But normally you didn’t have to go through Samaria. In fact, most Jews chose to go around Samaria rather than right through it, but here we see Jesus go directly through Samaria. Why so? He had mission work to do. Jesus stops at a certain place, he’s tired, he’s thirsty, and he’s hungry. The disciples go into the town to buy some food. While Jesus is there a Samaritan woman happens to show up. And Jesus asks her for a drink.
Now there’s a number of interesting observations we have here. The woman is totally surprised by Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is blasting right through a bunch of barriers. First, there was a gender barrier in Jesus’ day. Apparently in that day, as it still is today in some middle eastern cultures, men did not converse publicly with women. Jesus blows that away. Next there’s a cultural, religious, racial barrier. Jews and Samaritans absolutely hated each other. Samaritans were part Jew, part heathen and the full-blooded Jews detested them and Samaritans detested the full-blooded Jews. Jesus was a Jew and he had no qualms about talking with a Samaritan. And finally there’s a moral barrier. You notice what time of day she’s going out to draw water. It’s noon time. It’s right at the heat of the day. No one drew water at the heat of the day and typically women didn’t draw water alone, they almost always went in groups. This woman is going at the heat of the day all alone. Why? As we’ll find out later she was a moral mess, perhaps ostracized from her society for her sinful lifestyle, and Jesus is righteousness and purity Himself! Jesus blasts through the moral barrier and associates with this woman even willing to drink a cup of water that she’ll provide.
That’s what Jesus does. Jesus associates with tax collectors, prostitutes, self-righteous Pharisees, lawyers, fishermen, lepers, Samaritans, and Canaanites. You see, what Jesus has come to give is a GIFT, the “gift of God.” If it’s a gift, it doesn’t exclude anyone, it’s for all. If there were any requirements on salvation it would no longer be a gift. If you had to do this, or do that, be this or be that, it would necessarily than be limited, it would no longer be a gift, it would be wages, it would be something that you worked for. This living water that Jesus brings is totally, 100% a gift of His grace. That means it’s for you- whoever you are, whatever your background, whatever your past, it’s for you.
The gospel breaks all those human barriers down. It doesn’t privilege anyone. It’s a gift. The way you lose out on wages is if you don’t work. The way you lose out on a gift is if you’re prideful and you reject it. Perhaps that’s why the gospel generally has more success with people who are poor and needy than with people who are rich and powerful. It’s a gift.
So, it’s a gift. But what Jesus gives is also a soul-satisfying spring of water. Jesus tells her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Her interest is peaked, but who does this guy think he is? He can’t draw water from this well and does he think he’s greater than Jacob?? And Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drink this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Now her interest is really piqued; she wants this water. What happens when your body is very thirsty and you finally are able to drink? The water tastes so, so sweet. You don’t want just a little sip, you want more! And that’s what the gospel is. That’s what the living water of Jesus is- when we get a taste we want more.
But notice what Jesus does next. Out of the blue Jesus says to her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” But this is a sore subject. She says, “I have no husband.” And Jesus responds, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” What is Jesus doing here? Why would Jesus say this? Obviously Jesus is the all-knowing Lord and He knows everything about her and her past. But what is Jesus pointing out to her? He’s pointing out to her that if she wants to know this living water that he’s offering to her, she has to understand that she’s already searching for it, she’s digging wells for it, but it’s not satisfying. She’s looking for this living water in relationships, in men, she’s had five husbands, but it’s not working, it’s not satisfying.
The church father Augustine said, “You have fashioned us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you alone.” In other words, we each have this gaping, huge, God-sized hole in us that only God can fill, only God can satisfy. And until we realize that we’ll be trying to fill that God-sized hole with anything. But if we try to find satisfaction for our souls in anything other than Jesus, it’s going to be like drinking sea water to quench our thirst- it only makes us thirstier and dehydrate faster. If we look for satisfaction in life to relationships, to careers, to jobs, to money, to success, anything in this life, it will never quench our thirst and we’ll always be searching for something more.
Thirst quenching, soul satisfying, peace filling water is found only in Jesus. How so? We notice the woman goes right to a different subject- about where to worship God, where’s the right place. Jesus’ answer is that really everyone should be worshipping in Jerusalem right now. But then Jesus says, “Yet a time is coming (literally the “hour is coming”) and has now come with the true worshipers will worship the father in spirit and in truth.” Very interesting is that in the gospel of John every time the word “hour” is used it always has in mind a very specific “hour.” It’s the hour of Jesus’ death, the hour of Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, the temple to end all temples. Because of his “hour” people won’t need a temple or sacrifices to enter God’s presence. How is that possible?
Because as Jesus is dying the cross he will cry out, “I am thirsty.” How is it that Jesus gives forgiveness of all sins as a gift to any and to all? Because on the cross Jesus experienced the worst possible thirst ever. On the cross Jesus was cut off from the Father, he was feeling the devastating heat of God’s eternal judgment on all my sin, all yours, all the world’s! Jesus experienced the absolute worst thirst and dehydration for our sins, why so? So that we could have from him living water.
What does Jesus call it? “A spring of water welling up to eternal life.” That’s what Jesus gives you. He says to you: “I’ve washed your sins away in my blood shed on the cross for you. I allowed Roman hammers and nails to pierce my hands and feet on a cross to pay for your sins, forgiving every one of them. On the cross I experienced abandonment from God so you could experience His eternal love now and forever.”
And here’s what so beautiful about this image. You can fill in, clog up, bury a well. But you can’t fill up a spring. No matter how much junk or garbage or dirt you throw in a spring, it’s just going to keep bubbling on through. Jesus says, “I give you living water, my forgiveness, my grace, my peace, my acceptance so that no matter what happens in life, no matter what you face in life, no matter what junk or garbage gets thrown on your life, the joy you have in me and my living water will keep on bubbling through no matter what.” That’s real thirst-quenching grace! Amen.