Lent 3, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I can't imagine living at a time when there was no running water...more than that a time when the only source of water was a central well for the entire city. Everyone would have to go to the well. Whether they were thirsty, or needed to wash themselves or their clothes...they had to go to the well. The well was the source of life. But it was more than that. The well was a meeting place...a social hot spot. Rumors and gossip and news would be shared there.
Our story from the Gospel of John revolves around a well...an important well...Jacob's well. Our Lord was alone when a Samaritan woman approached to draw water. “Give me a drink” he says. But Jews don't talk to Samaritans. Men don't talk to strange women. And especially not alone.
And what is this Samaritan woman's response? Does she give Jesus a drink? No. Instead she picks a fight. "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” (John 4:9-12) You could almost sense she's had this kind of argument before. Listen here buddy... just because you're a Jew and I'm a Samaritan...doesn't mean you can order me around. So you forgot to bring a bucket... what; now I'm good enough to talk to... All she wanted to do was get some water and be on her way but that would be impossible now.
Jesus wasn't there to pick a fight. In fact He was actually there to give this woman a gift of more valuable than water. "Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (John 4:13-15)
How would you have responded? If you have some kind of fancy magical water that would eliminate me having to walk back and forth to the well every time I need water...I'm in! Where do I get this water? Would you be all ears? Or would you call Jesus a charlatan; a swindler; a fraud? Would you say to yourself "if it sounds too good to be true it probably is." Regardless of how we would respond this woman truly wanted this water that Jesus had...even though she didn't know what it was.
Now that she is thirsty and asking for a drink...the Lord does not give it to her. It's a complete reversal of how this whole conversation started. Now the Lord will cut to the heart before giving her what she needs most. "Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true." (John 4:16-18)
This stranger knew everything! All the skeletons she had in her closet were brought to the light of day. All of her mistakes and choices...all of her secrets...were laid bare. This man knew everything. He knew her very sins. He knows all of our sins...and secrets...mistakes and bad choices. Jesus knows all of the skeletons in our closet and even ones we didn't know we had.
And what do we do when we're caught? Maybe we start to squirm and try to wriggle our way out. Maybe we try to rationalize our mistakes or blame others for our circumstances. We often look for excuses or deny it all together. Maybe we just try to change the subject.
Maybe that is what the Samaritan woman is trying to do in our text...change the subject...go back to arguing about religious differences between Jews and Samaritans. Or maybe her frank acceptance of Jesus' accusation, and her realization that he is a prophet means she is willing to hone up to her sin. Perhaps she asks this question to genuinely know. Where's the true place to worship?
The argument had gone on for generations between the Jews and Samaritans. The Jews are always saying it's the temple, and the Samaritans say it's at Mt. Gerizim. So where do I go? Where do I go to receive forgiveness from God? She wants to know. She needs to know!
"Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:21-24)
The woman then confessed her faith in the Messiah...whom she believed would come...and would tell them all things. When the Messiah comes we will know the truth! If only she knew who she was talking to. He would give her Living Water. But Jesus wouldn't leave her wondering. Jesus wouldn't leave her starving for forgiveness. Jesus wouldn't leave her thirsty. "Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:26) I am the Messiah. I am the Christ. That day she found salvation. That day she was forgiven. That day she received the Living Waters from her Lord and Savior.
And so it is for us. Jesus comes to us, not at a well, but in a church. He isn't here so much to receive but to give his gifts: faith in the waters of baptism; life in His Word; forgiveness and strength in His body and blood. And since we know who he is, we ask for the living waters – when we confess our sin, when we kneel at his altar – we receive gratefully what he gives graciously. And by his grace, we too are made alive forevermore. “Give me something to drink” becomes our request to a Lord who has only the best to offer.
Whatever sin you carry this day, whether its 5 husbands, a betrayal of trust, or a lie you've convinced yourself is true. Perhaps worry or fear, or doubt, or all three. Perhaps actions or words you wish you could take back. Perhaps a way of thinking you struggle to escape. Whatever your sin, don't try to hide it from the Lord or change the subject. He cannot be fooled.
Instead, confess it, and receive from him the living waters of faith and forgiveness. For the Messiah has come. Jesus has died for you. Jesus rose for you. Jesus lives for you. Your sins are forgiven. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.