Why do you celebrate?

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Palm Sunday
Matthew 21:1-11

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,  Celebrations are a big part of life, aren’t they? What do you celebrate? At the end of the month we’ll have 4 confirmations and there’s going to be celebrations. Next month there’s going to be graduations and there’s probably going to be celebrations. We have birthday parties where we celebrate a specific person. We have wedding celebrations, anniversary celebrations, retirement celebrations, championship celebrations, grand opening celebrations. I think it’s safe to say that we humans enjoy celebrating. But, how often do you just celebrate to celebrate? Do you ever celebrate for no reason? There’s almost always a reason behind a celebration, there’s something that is happening that is causing your celebration.

But maybe you’re thinking to yourself right now, “Celebrate? Celebrate what? I have nothing to celebrate. I have no reason to celebrate. My life stinks right now.” But if you’re saying that you’re not celebrating not because you have nothing to celebrate but because you’re not celebrating the right things. Or maybe you’re saying to yourself, “You’re right I’m celebrating! I’m celebrating my children, my achievements in life, my promotions, my friends, etc.” But if you’re saying that you may be celebrating but you’re celebrating the wrong things. So, why are you celebrating?

We see people in our text celebrating. Palm Sunday is always kind of a strange day. We’ve been in the season of Lent for the last 5 ½ weeks. Lent is a time when we reflect on the sufferings of our Savior, we remember what our sins cost our Savior, we’re sorrowful over sin. We wear black, our songs are more mellow and sorrowful, our joy is somewhat muted.  And we know how this coming week is going to end. We remember how Jesus was betrayed on Maundy Thursday, how the disciple abandoned him, then on Good Friday we’re going to see Jesus nailed and crucified, die and be buried. But then here we are on Palm Sunday and…we’re celebrating!

Palm Sunday was an incredible event. Thousands of thousands of people came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. For what I read the normal population of Jerusalem was around 20-30,000 normally, but at the time of the Passover the population swelled to some 200-300,000 people. And when you’re coming to Jerusalem from the west, you come over the Mount of Olives and all of a sudden- there’s Jerusalem! Right in front of you! And here’s Jesus. He has just days earlier raised Lazarus from the dead and the news spread. And it wasn’t the only thing that Jesus had done. Jesus had done all kinds of miracles, healing the sick, making the paralyzed walk, the blind see, feeding 5,000, then feeding 4,000, so thousands and thousands of people knew about Jesus, heard about him, and now he’s coming to Jerusalem! Can you sense the excitement in the air? Throngs and throngs of people lining the streets, laying their garments on the road, cutting down palm branches to lay on the road. Can you picture it? They’re celebrating!

But why are they celebrating? What’s the reason they are celebrating? The crowds are shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” They are praising and hailing Jesus as the long promised Messiah riding into the Holy City at none other than the very time when they are commemorating the glorious deliverance that God brought about when He brought their ancestors out of slavery in Egypt. Could it be that they were thinking that Jesus was going to begin a wonderful and powerful earthly kingdom? Could it be that they were thinking that now they could have a king to feed them with free food, heal all their sicknesses, free them from the Romans and give them a wonderful life? Could it be that they were expecting a king like King David? We know that the disciples had their own misunderstandings. James and John wanted to sit at the right and left in Jesus’ kingdom, Peter wanted Jesus to have nothing to do with suffering and crucifixion. Could it be that they are celebrating but for the majority they are celebrating for the wrong reason, they are celebrating an earthly kingdom? By the end of the week the crowds won’t be shouting “Hosanna!” They’ll be shouting, “Crucify!”

And what about us? Why do we celebrate? Why are we celebrating? Or, why are we not celebrating? What are our reasons for celebrating or what are our reasons for not celebrating? You see, we aren’t much different from the crowds of people here. We, too, are by nature sinful and therefore also selfish. We want what’s best for us, we want things to go our way, we want life to be on our terms, we want life to meet our expectations. And so, when life goes according to our wants and desires- we celebrate. But then when life goes opposite of what we want – we refuse to celebrate. And I’m not talking about being happy all the time. I’m talking about celebrating as in singing God’s praises, praising, honoring, glorifying God – do we do that in the bad and in the good times? Or are our hearts selfishly focused on this life, this world, and our own expectations? Do we celebrate the wrong things and fail to celebrate the right things? Are we just as fickle as a Peter? Praising Jesus on Sunday and denying him with our words and actions on Thursday. Are we just as fickle as this crowd? Praising him on Sunday and abandoning him on Friday?  We don’t deserve to celebrate- we deserve to mourn, to cry, to weep because the only thing we deserve from this King the King is to be separated from him forever in hell.

But then there’s Palm Sunday. Jesus rides into Jerusalem not on a warhorse or a stallion, but humbly and gently, meekly and lowly. He came to Jerusalem not to claim a throne, but to a climb a cross. He came not to drive out the Romans, but to drive out sin, death, and hell forever. He came to do exactly what they and us were singing: Hosanna. It’s a Hebrew word that means “save us.” That’s exactly what we needed Jesus to do- to save us, to pay for our sins in full, to save us not from the Romans, but from eternal damnation. And that’s why Jesus rode in to Jerusalem.

And there’s more reasons to celebrate- right here we see them!  What do we see first?  As Jesus is coming to the village of Bethphage close to Jerusalem, he sends two of his disciples into the village.  Why?  Because Jesus tells them at once they will find a donkey and a colt there and the Gospel writer Luke adds that the colt is one on whom no one has ever ridden.  How did Jesus know those things?  Jesus is all-knowing and he’s showing that to his disciples.  And is that not something to celebrate?  Jesus knows all things.  That means He knows your life.  Jesus knows what’s coming in my life.  Jesus knows when the challenges are going to come, the good times are going to happen.  Jesus knows how he will use each thing that happens in my life to serve my good.  That’s something to celebrate!

Look at something else here when Jesus directs those disciples He tells them when they get to the donkey and her colt, “If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”  Literally the Greek says, “The Lord has need of them.”  The Lord has a need!!  And what does he need?  A donkey?  Really!  Think about that!  What amazing humility and lowliness!  The Lord…has lowered himself to what extent?  That he has need of a donkey!

But it was all according to God’s plan: “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  Our God rides into Jerusalem not in pomp and glory and strength and might, but in lowliness and with gentleness.  Is that something to celebrate?  For sinful human beings like you and me, absolutely.  For God could deal with us with anger and power and give us what our sins deserve.  But he doesn’t.  He deals with us with gentleness and graciousness.  While the crowds are celebrating and cheering, Jesus however remains focused and keeps his sight on one place, the cross, to go to the cross and pay for the sins of the world.

And again that Jesus had his sights set on the cross to pay for the sins of the world and came riding into Jerusalem to do just that, that’s something to celebrate.  For when our final hour comes, when the end of our life comes, when we are getting ready to leave this world, what are we going to celebrate?  Are we really going to care about that promotion that we got at work?  Are we really going to care about that advanced degree?  Are we really going to care if we won the big game?  Is it really going to matter if we were healthy or unhealthy, popular or unpopular, rich or poor?  At our final hour we will see all of those things for what they really are – things of this earth, which are fine and good by themselves, but just that, things of this earth.  Rather, as death draws near it will be the eternal things that will matter to us.

And because Jesus came riding into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday we have something worth celebrating!  For we have salvation, we have forgiveness, we have a God who deals with us with gentleness and grace, we have a God who knows our lives through and through and will continue to guide and direct things in order to bring us to the eternal mansions of heaven!  Celebrate that!

And so today we sing “Hosanna!”  And it’s incredibly fitting.  For “Hosanna” means “Save us, Lord.”  And that’s exactly what we need, we need a God to save us and that’s exactly what our King, our Lord, our Redeemer Jesus gently, humbly, knowingly and willingly rode into Jerusalem to do.  And that’s the real reason that we celebrate today, tomorrow, and forever.  Amen.

It is Well!

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5th Sunday in Lent
2 Kings 4:18-37

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus,

What causes you stress? There are these studies that rate different events in life as to the amount of stress that they cause a person. You can probably guess what some of the top ones are: divorce, incarceration, major injury or illness, job change, move, but what is always in the top five if not number one? The death of a spouse or the death of a close family member or loved one.  I think we’d all agree that the tragic loss of life is one of, if not the most, stressful thing that we face in life. And it makes sense. You can recover from an injury or illness or relationship break, adapt to a new job, but there’s a certain finality that comes with death. God tells us that the reason we face death is because of sin. The wages of sin is death.

Today in our Lenten journey to our Savior’s cross we’re looking at this opposition of life vs. death. How does our Savior give us the calmness, give us the peace to be able to say even in the face of death, “It is well”?

What we have in our text this morning is an incredible account of something that happened during the ministry of the prophet Elisha. Elisha served in the Northern Kingdom of Israel and as a whole, the Northern Kingdom was a spiritual mess, full of idol worship and many had abandoned trust in the true God. But we see a refreshing difference here. As a prophet, Elisha would travel around to different places sharing the Word of God. One of the places that he went to was this place called Shunem, an area in the northern kingdom. While he was there a certain lady, in fact, she’s not even named, just called the “Shunammite” who was wealthy served Elisha meals when he came. Then, she decided to build an addition on her house so that Elisha would have a private room to stay in when he came to Shunem. In return Elisha wanted to do something for her since she had been so gracious to him. But she pretty much told him, “I’m content. I don’t need anything.” Then Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, said, “Well, she has no son and her husband is old.” In this time and in this culture not having a son was about the worst thing a woman could experience. First of all, that meant that the father’s name would die out and all their inheritance would have to go to someone else. It also meant that the woman had no social security. A son was the main way for a woman to be taken care of after her husband passed away and we’re told that her husband was old. If she was young, she faced many years of being a lone widow. So, Elisha promised her in a year she would have a son. To which she responded, “Don’t mislead your servant, O man of God!” She didn’t want to get her hopes up, she had been down this road many times, she had resolved herself to the fact that she would never have a son. But, in a year, she had a son, just like Elisha had promised.

That’s where our text picks up. One day her son, as a young boy, was out with his father in the harvest field when he complained, “My head, my head!” He was suffering probably from a heat stroke. His father has him carried in to his mother. His mother held him till noon and tragically the boy died. Now, imagine being in that situation. What would you have done? I know I would have been distraught, probably panicked, frantically trying to do something or just despaired. What does she do? She goes upstairs, lays the boy not on his own bed, but on the bed of the man of God, shuts the door and goes out. She calls her husband to send a servant and a donkey so she could go to the man of God. He’s confused, why go to the man of God now? She responds by saying, “It’s all right.” The KJV translates it “It shall be well.” The Hebrew simply says, “Peace.”

She sets off on the some 20 mile journey to Mt. Carmel where Elisha was. He sees her in the distance, knows something’s wrong, tells Gehazi to run to meet her and ask, “Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?” She responds, “Everything is all right.” The KJV says, “It is well.” The Hebrew simply says, “Peace.” She pretty much blows Gehazi off and arrives where Elisha was, falls down at his feet grasping them. Gehazi comes over clearly upset and is about to push her away. He’s the Elisha’s executive assistant, who does she think she is coming in to Elisha without an appointment! But Elisha stops him. Then she says, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?

Elisha then knows something has happened to her son. He sends Gehazi with his staff to run to the child and lay his staff on the boy’s face. Now why would Elisha do this? He thinks time is of the essence and Gehazi is young so he sends him to run the 20 miles to her home and since he’s a prophet he has a staff so he sends his staff. It’s like the doctor sending his stethoscope to the sick person. The woman, however, refuses to leave Elisha so Elisha heads out toward her home. Gehazi gets there tries what Elisha told him to do, but nothing. Finally, Elisha arrives, goes to the room where the boy’s body was lying, shuts the door. The first thing he does is pray to the Lord. Then he stretched himself out on top of the boy and the boy’s body grew warm. He got up, walked around some more, then got down again on the bed and stretched himself over the boy – mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Elisha called for his mother and said, “Take your son.” She came in, fell at his feet, bowed down, took her son and went out.

Who’s the hero of faith in this account? It’s not the husband, he’s hardly involved. It’s not Gehazi, he gets in the way. It’s not really even Elisha, he’s not really sure what to do! It’s the woman, it’s the mother. How does she do what she does? She does some incredible things here. Her little boy, her son, her only son dies. Can you imagine? Some of you can. What does she do? She lays him on the prophet’s bed, tells no one, not even her husband, and just sets out to God’s prophet. She lets nothing get in her way. When people ask her if everything is all right, what does she say? “It is well.” How can she do this? How can she say, “It’s all right, it’s well”? She just lost her only child! She’s clearly hurting and troubled, but she’s also well, she also has peace. How is that possible? How can she be in pain and yet at peace?

I think we can all agree on the number one stressor in life, the number one thing that causes grief and pain in life is the loss of a loved one. But what do we learn from this woman of faith? How did she have such poise and peace? What did she do? She didn’t ignore it, didn’t pretend she wasn’t hurting, nor turn to self-medication. Where did she go? She went to God. She went to the one individual who spoke for God, God’s representative, God’s prophet. In other words, she clung to her Lord for help. Elisha was just the messenger, the ambassador for God. She knew the only source of help in life and in death is the Lord. In the face of bitter pain, agony, and grief she clings to the Lord.

And what did the Lord do for her? She received her dead son back. Why? To show that God has the power over death. Now, you might think, that’s nice- she got her son back, I didn’t. I don’t know about you, but it’s a nightmare of mine to think about losing my wife or losing one of my children. Death is an unwelcome guest in every home, in every life. It haunts, it hurts, it gives you stress and anxiety. Why so? It shows us the stark reality of our sin- the wages of sin is death. So what do you do?  You can turn to any number of things to try to deal with the stress – anger, bitterness, self-medication, your own remedy. But those will never give peace. Rather, like this mother, cling to your Lord and Savior.

What’s interesting is what Elisha does. Apparently, the Lord instructed him to do this bizarre thing and climb on top of the boy mouth to mouth, eye to eye, hand to hand. God’s prophet, His messenger completely covers the dead boy with himself and the boy is raised to life. I don’t know why Elisha did this, but I do know that someone has done this to you. You see, Jesus has covered your dead body mouth to mouth, eye to eye, hand to hand. How so? We’re told, “God made him who had no sin (Jesus) to be sin for us.” In other words, God transferred the punishment of your sin and my sin to Jesus on the cross, he covered you taking your punishment on Himself. If you’re in a fox hole with a friend and someone throws in a grenade you have two options. You can jump out of the hole and save yourself killing your friend or you can jump on your friend, covering your friend and absorbing the shrapnel, losing your life but sparing your friend. That’s what Jesus did on the cross for you and me. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” He’s completely covered you with His holy and perfect life. “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus because all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.” Through baptism God brought you from spiritual death to spiritual life and now sees you covered with Jesus. Through faith you were brought to new spiritual life, eternal life. That means you’re eternal! Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life those who believes in me will live even though they die.

How can we face life and death with the poise and the peace like this Shunamite woman? It’s clinging in faith to our God who has the power over life and death. Yes, this woman received her son back, but that was only temporary. Far more importantly because of Jesus one day in heaven we will receive all our believing loved ones back just like this woman. Jesus will take your hand and say, “Here, take your son, your daughter, your loved one.”

We have an illustration of this peace right before us. In a few moments were about to sing a hymn. It was written by a man named Horatio Spafford. He was an American lawyer who lost everything in the great Chicago fire of 1871. Two years later he sent his wife Anna and their four daughters on a ship across the Atlantic to England for a trip. The ship hit another ship and began to sink. As it was sinking Anna gathered her four daughters and they began praying. The ship went under and everyone was scattered and the four little girls drowned. Anna was found unconscious by a rescue ship floating. They rescued her and took her to England. She wired her husband back two words: saved alone. When Horatio was on the ship over to England to bring his wife home he began to write this hymn. Notice what he says, just what the woman said, “It is well.” How could he write about peace and being well with such grief? Look at what the hymn is focused on: Jesus. My sin not in part but the whole is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.

That’s where peace is found. When grief strikes- cling to the Lord Jesus and know I’m not being punished, look at the cross God punished all my sins there. When I think God doesn’t care – look at the cross – there God forgave all my sins. Look at the cross where God says, “See I’ve lost a child too, not involuntarily, but voluntarily, for your eternal salvation.” It’s there where in the midst of grief and sadness you can say, with this Shunamite woman, “It is well.” Amen.

There is Now No Condemnation!

4th Sunday in Lent
Romans 8:1-10

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,

In 1886 Robert Louis Stevenson published a famous book called the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The story is about a certain man who transformed between these two vastly different personalities. Dr. Jekyll was a nice sociable person. Mr. Hyde, on the other hand, was not. He was evil, self-indulgent, and uncaring about anyone except himself. The story is about how it is discovered that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are actually the same person and how Mr. Hyde slowly begins to take over.  What’s interesting about the story is that, in a way, it captures exactly what’s going on in the heart of every Christian. In every Christian there’s a constant opposition, a constant battle going on between two vastly different persons. There’s an old self, a sinful self, a self totally and completely dominated by the sinful nature that we inherit from birth. But there’s also a new self, a new person, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24). So there’s this battle inside of us between the selfless saint and the selfish sinner. The new self loves God, lives in grace and forgiveness, joy and freedom. The sinful self hates God and lives in selfishness, self-absorption, self-centeredness, self-concentration.

This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde battle out in every Christian heart. Perhaps the clearest display of these two persons is in children. Here’s one example: Having a number of children in my family means that we don’t buy new clothes for each one, they get hand-me-downs. For quite a while my wife and I didn’t want to spend the money on new mittens for David knowing that he’s just going to outgrow them. So what did he get? One pair of purple mittens and one pair of pink mittens. But guess what? He didn’t care, he’s three years old! He goes out, runs, laughs, plays without a care in the world. He doesn’t care what other people think, he doesn’t care what he looks like, he’s not afraid of being made fun of. Why so? He feels secure. He’s secure knowing that his dad and mom dearly love him, he knows “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so,” he doesn’t question it, he’s secure. You know, he’s never climbed up on my knee to tell me how concerned he is about the direction our country is going, he’s never told me how troubled he is by nuclear bombs, he’s never told me he’s afraid we might not have enough money this month. He can just run and play and laugh without a care in the world. Now we look at that and think, “That’s pretty neat. There’s a part of me that wishes I could be so carefree.” But then, at other times, we see how children can show themselves to be absolutely, incredibly selfish and self-centered. For example: one toy plus two children equals fighting and crying. You let one child have the toy and you and get a new toy for the other and what happens? All of sudden they’ve both forgotten about the old toy and now they’re fighting over the new toy! What is so pronounced in children is the same thing that goes on in the adult heart just more advanced and hidden.

This saint versus sinner battle goes on inside of us each day. There’s a battle between selflessness and selfishness that is fought in our hearts every day. Our text this morning describes the difference between a heart controlled by the Holy Spirit and a heart controlled by the sinful nature. But our first verse gives us the key to living the life of who we really are.

You see, the sinful nature produces selfishness and the root cause of selfishness is this feeling of being condemned. Being condemned means that there is something against you, something you are liable for, something you have to pay, something you have to prove. In other words, this idea that I need to prove myself, validate myself, show that I matter in life. Maybe it’s in my job, maybe it’s in my family, maybe it’s in my skill, maybe it’s in my intellect or my grades. But if I’m driven by this need to prove myself, I’ll always be self-absorbed and condemned. I’ll be self-absorbed because I’m looking to get ahead. I’ll be condemned because life will show me time and again that I’ve fallen short. Let’s take a couple examples: if I’m looking for validation and approval from my job, I’ll feel good when my boss complements me or gives me a raise, but I’ll be devastated and condemned when I’m demoted, criticized, or lose my job. If I’m looking for validation and approval in life from my family, I’ll feel good when my children are perfect angels and star athletes, but I’ll be devastated and condemned when they misbehave or disappoint my expectations somehow. If I’m looking for validation in being smart or in having good grades, I’ll feel good when people are impressed by my knowledge and I get good grades, but be devastated and condemned when I’m wrong or get bad grades. If I’m looking for validation from a particular talent or ability that I have, I’ll feel good when I’m complemented or when I score a lot of points in the game, but devastated and condemned when I fail.

We see this in our other lessons. What led Joseph’s brothers to hate him so much? They were looking for validation from their father’s approval, but when he gave his favor to Joseph instead of them, they were devastated and condemned. What led the sons of Zebedee and their mother to request the highest positions in Jesus’ kingdom? They were looking for validation from their positions.

You see, in every case and whenever we’re devastated and condemned the reason is because we’re putting more stock in someone or something else instead of in God. What so-and-so says is more real and more important to me than what Jesus, the King of the universe says about me. And when we do that it will always and inevitably lead to more selfishness, self-absorption, self-concentration because I need their approval so I’m not condemned.

So what’s the answer? It’s right here. Here’s your assignment this week: memorize this verse: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Did you hear what that said? In Christ Jesus there is NO condemnation. That means there is nothing held against you, you are liable for nothing, there is nothing you have to pay for, there is nothing you have to prove to anyone, nothing you have to work for, nothing you have to achieve. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That means you have complete and total approval and validation from God, the King of the universe. You can’t possibly be more loved by God than you are right now. You can’t possibly be more forgiven by God than you are right now. You can’t possibly be more treasured by God than you are right now.

But how can that be? I know that my past is ugly, I know that I’ve been way more Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll, I know I’ve been selfish way more than selfless. How can God say that there is now no condemnation? Because he already condemned sin. God sent his own son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. Jesus Christ was condemned in your place. Jesus Christ sacrificially gave himself up on a cross to be condemned by God for all your sin, all mine, and all the world’s. And what does that mean? That means there is no condemnation left for you. Instead the righteous requirements of the law are fully met not BY us, but IN us. God credits to us the perfect life of His Son Jesus.

So what’s the key to living a selfless life and not a selfish one? It’s this: There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! Let that truth sink deeper and deeper into your mind and into your heart. It’s having God’s approval, His validation that means you can run and play and laugh without a care in the world like a little child. What is it that is condemning you? Who’s approval are you placing more stock in than Jesus, the King of the universe? Hear what God says to you: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

It also means that you can give yourself in self-sacrificing service. Since you don’t have to prove yourself or impress anyone there’s no need to be selfishly looking to get ahead. Rather, since you have everything you need eternally from God in Jesus, you can give of yourself to others. You can live not to be served, but to serve. Why so? Because you have a Savior who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.

There’s a battle going on inside of each of us between a sinful nature and a new person. But Christ as set us free, we aren’t enslaved to our sinful nature any longer. We can live in freedom and joy and selfless service because we know: There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Memorize that with your head and live it with your heart. Amen.

Thirst Quenching Grace

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2nd Sunday in Lent
John 4:4-26

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.