John 4:5-30, 39-42 (Third Sunday in Lent—Series A)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
March 12, 2023
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text this morning is from the Gospel lesson appointed for today, from John 4.
5Then He came into a village of the Samaritans called Sychar near the field which Jacob gave to his son Joseph, 6and Jacob’s well was there. Therefore, Jesus, being exhausted from the journey, sat beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7A woman from Samaritans came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8For his disciples had gone away into the village so that they might buy some food. 9Then the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is that you, a Jew, ask from me, a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered and said to her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,” you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to Him, “Sir, you do not have a bucket and the well is deep. Therefore, from what source do you get this running water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and he himself drank from it as well as his sons and his flocks?” 13Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks from this water will thirst again. 14But whoever should drink from the water which I will give to him shall surely never thirst, but the water which I will give to him will become in him a spring of water springing up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I should not thirst and not have to come here to draw [water].”
“Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink,” says the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Of course, he was talking about being in the middle of the ocean with water as far as the eye can see and not being able to drink it because it is salt water and not fresh water. Water is absolutely essential to life. Without it, nothing can live. Ultimately, even the desert camel must drink water, or it will die.
Naturally, one can understand why Jesus sat down on the ground next to the well near Sychar. He was tired because of traveling north to Galilee through the region of Samaria. In the warm, semi-dry climate Jesus was thirsty. It was about 12 noon. The sun was no doubt high in the sky, beating down on Him. His disciples had gone into the town marketplace to buy some food. While He sat beside the well, a Samaritan woman came to draw water.
She looked at him and He looked at her. We can imagine that nothing was said right away. Certainly, she would not speak to Him. She, being a woman, was looked down upon in the society of the day and it would have been out of place to start conversation. She was also a Samaritan, whom the Jews regarded as “half-breeds” and held in contempt. In the eyes of the culture, this woman was to be disregarded as ceremonially unclean. Contact with her would make a Jew unclean, preventing his worship in the Temple until purification could be made. But Jesus ignores all of that. Paying no mind to the cultural and religious ramifications, Jesus spoke to this woman, “Give me a drink.” The woman questioned Jesus right away, “How is that you, a Jew, ask from me, a Samaritan woman?” In effect, she wanted to know what was wrong with this guy. The fact that she was Samaritan and woman should have deterred Him from any contact with her, yet Jesus spoke to the woman, “Give me a drink.”
Jesus is thirsty. He is in need of water to quench His thirst and to refresh and strengthen His body. But Jesus sets His need aside to address the greater need of this Samaritan woman. Jesus answered and said, “If you had known the gift of God, namely, who it is who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” From Jesus’ words, we understand that this woman is not aware of who Jesus is. She is also not aware of her great need. In other words, Jesus tells this woman, “I would be happier to reverse the order and give you a drink. In fact, this is the reason for My presence here. I am asking for a drink to quench My physical thirst so that I might have occasion to give you a ‘drink’. If you only realized what a gift is now to be found on earth, you would ask Me for it, and I would give you a drink that would taste better than this water. It is of the utmost importance to recognize this gift and to know Him who is the gift.”
Clearly, the woman didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about. She questioned Him as to where He would get this “running water” (notice she hasn’t caught on to the “living water” aspect) because He has nothing to draw with and the well is quite deep. “From what source do you get this running water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and he himself drank from it as well as his sons and his flocks?” she asked. Yes, in fact, Jesus is greater than Jacob. Jesus tells the woman, “Everyone who drinks from this water will thirst again. But whoever should drink from the water which I will give to him shall surely never thirst, but the water which I will give to him will become in him a spring of water springing up to eternal life.” Again, Jesus makes the woman consider what her greater need is. She is very much caught up in the physical and earthly. Jesus wants her to see that her greater need is spiritual and heavenly. While she needs water to live on earth, she needs the living water that only Christ can give to have life eternal. If she knew the gift of God and, in that connection, who the stranger was who was speaking with her, this woman would no longer trouble herself about problems between Jews and Samaritans but would ask Him for water and He would give it to her—living water—regardless of whether she was a Samaritan or not. The Samaritan woman, too, is thirsty. Jesus wanted her to recognize her spiritual thirst and to see Him as the One who is the Gift of God and the Giver of living water, eternal life through the Spirit.
As you and I encounter Jesus in His Word today, we also must consider our thirst. Not thirst for earthly water, but for living water. Jesus asks us, “Who’s thirsty? If you had known the gift of God . . . you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” Do we know the gift of God? Do we ask Jesus for living water? As Christians, we’d like to think that we do know God’s gift and who it is that is both the Gift and the Giver. But we don’t always. We’d like to think we ask that Giver for living water. But we don’t always. How can that be true? It is as true as the fact that the woman at the well had five husbands and the man she was now with was not her husband. It is true because of sin. Sin clouds our spiritual thinking. Sin separates us from God and from desiring the gifts of God.
Sin has left us in the condition of being spiritually thirsty. In fact, we were so thirsty that we had become totally dehydrated and were spiritually dead in trespasses and sins. There was no desire for the gifts of God, no longing for God. This estrangement from God accounts for all the griefs and sorrows, worries and heartaches, the restlessness and unhappiness, the despondency and despair of the human heart. To this day, sin still corrupts us and keeps us from always thirsting for the gift of God and seeking Jesus, the Giver. Sin causes us, instead, to thirst for the things of this world that please our sinful nature. We thirst for that which can satisfy our human wants and cravings. We desire wealth and power, money and popularity, thinking these things can make us truly happy as we often put them first in our lives. We lust to fulfill our sexual appetites. We wish to better ourselves by any means possible, whether that means speaking lies against a co-worker or classmate, cheating on a test in school, or being lazy at the workplace and not doing our jobs. Do we know the gift of God? Do we ask Jesus for living water? Left to ourselves, our sinful nature does not let us understand and know the gift of God. Satan and the world influence us not to ask Jesus for His gift of living water. So, we thirst. We are spiritually thirsty people.
However, God, in His mercy, does not want us to die of spiritual thirst because of our sins. So out of His great love for sinners, God sent His One-of-a-kind Son, Jesus Christ, into our sin-filled world. Jesus became subject to human need, even to thirst. The well near Sychar was not the only place that Jesus was thirsty. Jesus was nailed to a cross on Calvary’s hill. As He hung there, bleeding and dying, John tells us “Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:28-30).
Jesus Christ became thirsty for you and me so that you and I would never thirst again. The gift of God, Jesus Christ, thirsted as He hung on the cross, bearing our sin and enduring our death. Burdened with our sin, Jesus became sin for us. We can certainly say that on the cross, Jesus became spiritually thirsty too, as our sins were upon Him. We can hear Jesus saying to us from the cross, “I am happy to reverse the order and give you a drink. In fact, that is why I am here on the cross. I am dying for your sins so that you might drink from the living water of life eternal. Even though, because of your sins, you did not recognize God or the gift of living water, receive the forgiveness of sins which My death wins for you. Drink of the spring of living water, the eternal life which My death and resurrection purchases for you. I will thirst in your place so that you no longer will.”
Jesus gave us His life on the cross so that you and I would have life forever with God. This life was for not only for the Jewish people, but also for the Samaritan woman, the Samaritans, and all who are spiritually thirsting because of sin. That life is for you and me. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, you and I are no longer spiritually thirsting. By God’s grace alone, our sins are forgiven because of Jesus. We have new life, eternal life, through the living water and the Spirit given to us in Holy Baptism. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn. 3:5-6 ESV). As Baptized children of God, we have been given faith which trusts in Jesus as our Savior through the power of the Holy Spirit working through water and the Word of Christ. Because of this gift, Christ dwells in us through the Spirit. The Spirit Himself has become a spring of water springing up to eternal life as He delivers to us the fruits of Jesus’ cross and resurrection—His gift of sins forgiven and life forever with our Lord and God.
Who’s thirsty? Not us! Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead has quenched our spiritual thirst. While we were still sinners, when we didn’t deserve forgiveness and life, Jesus died to save us. It is by grace, through faith, that we have been saved. Christ’s living water, the Holy Spirit who brings us eternal life through the saving work of Jesus, is truly a gift of God. Indeed, the living water Jesus has given to you and to me, the Spirit Himself, is a spring of water springing up to eternal life. As we continue our Lenten journey to the cross and the empty tomb of Easter, remember that, because of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit, we no longer thirst for the things of God. His love and mercy have quenched our thirst better than any physical water ever could. Amen.