John 4:5-26 (Third Sunday in Lent—Series A)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
March 27, 2011
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in John 4:
So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “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.” 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.”
Maybe some of you remember the old slogan for Gatorade. “Gatorade is thirst-aid for that deep-down body thirst.” Their website says, “For over 40 years, Gatorade has proved again and again to keep athletes hydrated and performing at their best. . . . Original Gatorade delivers a unique formula of sodium, potassium, and essential carbohydrates to your muscles and mind during the heat of battle.” It’s still thirst-aid for that deep-down body thirst, but Gatorade just can’t go deep enough. People have a thirst that goes much deeper that physical thirst. It is a thirst so deep that it goes beyond the body to the soul. Perhaps Penelope will serve us as an example.
“After 26 years in a good marriage and after raising three children to adulthood and self-sufficiency, Penelope couldn’t explain the sense of emptiness she was feeling. She had a fruitful life and could think of nothing specific that she lacked. She and her husband, Roger, had done quite well and were living comfortably. Still Penelope had a vague, undefined sense of dissatisfaction. She craved something more, but she couldn’t put her finger on what it was.
One day Penelope succumbed to her friend Gloria’s weekly invitation to attend a women’s Bible study. She always had avoided attending because religious people made her feel uncomfortable. But Penelope went, mostly to get Gloria off her back. The women were studying Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, going verse by verse through the Beatitudes. Someone read, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.’ (Matthew 5:6) Penelope was startled. Is that what her problem was? Is that why she felt so empty, even though on the surface her life was full?” Was she thirsty for righteousness? Would that fill her?
You and I easily understand physical thirst. We’ve all been thirsty, looking for something cold to drink to quench that thirst—whether it be water, Gatorade, lemonade, or an ice tea. But you and I also understand the deep down thirst of the soul that Penelope was experiencing. At one time or another we, like so many people, have felt a void, an emptiness, an undefined and general dissatisfaction. Although our lives, for the most part, are filled with good stuff, we can sense a lack, a thirst for something more lasting, more sure, than the things of this world. We are spiritually thirsty people. We are parched and looking for that which can quench our spiritual need for love, peace, and salvation.
But sometimes we look in all the wrong places. Cults and spiritual groups have never been more popular. There is an unprecedented demand for spiritual gurus and advisors to fill in the lack in a person’s life. But they have nothing that can satisfy and quench the thirst, so people have to keep coming back, much like the Samaritan woman who had to keep coming back to the well to draw water each day.
The pleasures of the world are repeatedly offered to us as the things that will satisfy us. “If you have enough money, you will be happy. If you have all the latest electronics and iPhones and game consoles, you will be content. Popularity will make you feel fulfilled. Surround yourself with like-minded friends and you will always be successful. They will never tell you that you are wrong.”
There are, of course, other worldly pleasures. There is the lust of the flesh (a passion for sensual satisfaction), the lust of the eyes (an inordinate desire for the finer things of life), and the pride of life (self-satisfaction in who we are, what we have, and what we have done). People seek to quench their spiritual thirst in a preoccupation with ease and affluence where large salaries and comfortable life-styles become necessities of life.
“Give me this water so that I don’t have to keep coming back to this well and draw some,” said the woman to Jesus. “Give me something to satisfy my thirst in a way that will take care of what I believe I need most in this life.” And don’t we say similar things. “Jesus, give me the money, the toys, the popularity, the best of what life has to offer so I don’t have to work for it anymore.” We want to be satisfied. We want to be “fat and happy.” We want our needs met and our life to go swimmingly. We want it all in this life because we think that will satisfy our deep-down body and soul thirst. But it doesn’t. Penelope “had it all.” At least she had a good life, a well-rounded and fulfilled life. But she wasn’t satisfied. Her thirst was not quenched. She had to keep coming back to the well day after day, month after month, year after year—her thirst subdued for a moment and then reality again, “I need more.”
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,” our Lord said. He was just pointing out the facts. You drink a glass of water in the morning, you will be thirsty by lunchtime, if not before. You drink the pleasures of this world—money, popularity, sensuality, possessions—you will continue to thirst for them and never be satisfied with what you have received. You will be thirsty again because the things of this world do not, will not, cannot satisfy our soul’s thirst for the things of God. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 107, “Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” (Psalm 107:4-9)
Our souls long to have their spiritual thirst satisfied. And God in His mercy and grace heard the cries of dehydrating people. He sent Jesus to freely give us living water, the water that has become in us a spring of water welling up to eternal life. At the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7 our Lord cried out the words of invitation, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in my, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
Jesus poured out streams of blood and water as He gave up His life into death on the cross. Jesus died to give us the soul-satisfying, soul-quenching forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. Having won for us these most precious gifts, He rose again in victory over death. He ascended into heaven so that He might pour out the living water of the Holy Spirit into our hearts so that we might receive Jesus by faith as our Lord and Savior, receive His forgiveness and salvation, and receive His victory of death and the devil.
We read in 1 Corinthians 12, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” In Baptism we are all given to drink in the living water of the Holy Spirit who is poured out upon us. It is through the washing of water and the Word in Baptism that our bodies and souls drink the living water of the Spirit, come to faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, and receive Christ’s gifts which satisfy our deep-down thirst for forgiveness, life everlasting, and a new life in this world released from the guilt and penalty of sin, assured of a place with Christ in His eternal kingdom.
The living water of the Spirit continues to flow freely to us through the Word of God in the Gospel. As we regularly engage God’s Word the Spirit continually refreshes us in body and soul through the life-giving Word that offers, gives, and seals our forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Christ. We are strengthened in our faith and in our Christian living.
Refreshed by the living water of the Holy Spirit we are also brought in repentance and faith to the Table of our Lord to receive further spiritual nourishment in the food and drink of Christ’s holy body and precious blood. By faith we eat and drink forgiveness while by our mouths we eat and drink the body and blood of Christ with the bread and the wine. Here in this precious Meal our Lord through the Holy Spirit invites us to eat and to drink and be satisfied.
Penelope realized that her thirst was much deeper than she had originally thought. She was thirsty because the water she was drinking for her soul was all wrong. It was a water that could never quench. But Penelope heard the Good News. What is truly satisfying is Christ and the living water of the Holy Spirit whom He pours out on us generously through His Word and Sacraments. It is this life-transforming water of the Spirit who calls us to faith in Jesus, gives us the gifts of Christ which are forgiveness and eternal life, and then sustains us in this faith and in holy living with the water of life welling up in us day after day, month after month, year after year. We have drunk freely of the Spirit and we are satisfied. Our deep-down spiritual thirst is quenched for time and for eternity. So “come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” and drink! Amen.
 Preus, Just Words. © 2000, CPH, pg. 71-72