2nd Sunday in Lent (A)
March 13, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
I am always tempted to take government statistics with a grain of salt, so when I heard that, worldwide, two hundred million people have to travel more than thirty minutes to collect clean water, I wondered if it was that high. The more I thought about it I realized that even if the World Health Organization is exaggerating a little bit, that’s still millions of people who don’t have easy access to an absolute necessity. Without water, crops don’t grow, lakes dry up, and the human body shuts down. We all need water to live, but even if you drink enough water, you might still be dehydrated, if you’re not getting the water you really need.
The Gospel begins with what has been a familiar scene for thousands of years; a woman getting the day’s water. It wasn’t an easy task; haul the water pot to the well, pull up water from the well, which was the deepest well in the area, and then haul it home, only to do it all over again the next day. It’s no wonder she was intrigued when a Jewish stranger says, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.” She saw someone who seemed to be offering nothing more than a way to avoid a daily chore. Like many people who encounter Jesus, she missed the significance of His words. She came because she was thirsty, but Jesus revealed to her a different thirst, an aching parchedness. And it began with a simple conversation: “Go, call your husband, and come here. I don’t have a husband. You’re right, for you’ve had five husbands, and the one you have now isn’t your husband.”
We don’t know this woman’s story. We don’t know if the divorces were her fault or not. Was she used by these men and then thrown away? Was she unfaithful? Were her ex-husbands bad men or was she a bad woman? We have no idea. The reasons aren’t important. What’s important is that she wasn’t finding what she needed in marriages, or in this case, acting married when she wasn’t. She knew something wasn’t right, she just couldn’t put her finger on it. So, Jesus revealed to her the true nature of the problem, she was spiritually thirsty.
When you’re making your way to the well, when you encounter others, do you find yourself putting on a brave face? You hide your hurt with jokes. You mask your pain with booze. You bury your hatred of yourself by hurting others. Do you ever find yourself needing something, but unable to put it into words? Or can you put it into words, you just can’t find the answer or the help or the satisfaction you need? You’re not alone! The lonely Samaritan woman had burdens in her personal life – you may have them. She had burdens in her soul – you may have them. She had fears and uncertainties – you have them. She had a thirst that went far beyond well water – you may too.
It’s tempting when you’ve been sucked dry by psychological or emotional hurts and when you’ve become dehydrated from your past sins and mistakes, to look for relief anywhere. But if you look to the wrong source of relief, you’re only going to be worse off than when you started. Maybe the Samaritan woman was seeking relief in men and casual sex. It didn’t help, it only made matters worse. She was up to what could be her sixth marriage, and it still wasn’t better. Maybe you’re seeking to quench your thirst in the wrong things. You need to know it’s not going to help. It’s only going to make it worse.
Look at it this way. If you’re floating in a lifeboat that’s lost in the middle of the ocean with the sun beating down, in your desperation you might be tempted to drink just a little bit of the ocean water to soothe your thirst. A little bit can’t hurt, right? It can! Drinking the saltwater will make you thirstier and thirstier so you drink more and more until you begin to hallucinate and eventually die. The saltwater you’re drinking, the things you look for in yourself or in others, will only make your thirst worse. They can’t satisfy the thirst in its true location – your soul.
The great Church Father Saint Augustine said, “You made us for Yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” The woman came to the well with a restless spirit with no clue that the tired, hungry man sitting by the well would the one who would finally give her rest. She thinks He doesn’t know her, yet He knew her living situation and what was in her heart and soul. Jesus not only tells her she needs living water He points her to Himself as the source.
First, He tells her that He can give her what she needs. She’s surprised so she asks a legitimate question, “Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself.” Of course Jesus is greater than her ancestor Jacob, lived for an eternity before Jacob, and He’ll live for an eternity after Jacob. He is the Christ that everyone was waiting for. The Christ that this woman was looking forward to seeing is speaking to her, and by revealing what He knew about her live, she was led to see the reality of her sinful situation and how her true thirst can only be satiated in one way – through the Living Water.
It’s at this point the discussion takes what seems to be a strange turn. “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” It’s not as strange as you might think. The woman is admitting her sins and her thirst, but she doesn’t know where to go. Does she worship at the Samaritan Temple or travel to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem? Jesus says, it’s neither. It’s in Him that she finds what she needs – she finds forgiveness, she finds salvation, she finds rest and in all of these, she finds her thirst has been quenched.
Your thirst may be overwhelming, your soul may be restless and longing for more, let me point you to Christ, the true Living Water. You might not believe that Jesus knows what you’re going through, but He does. You’re His creation, more than that, you belong to Him, and He knows your aches, your pains, your sorrows, your troubles, your sins. When the woman first questioned Jesus, He answered, “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.”
Christ is the pure water you need. He is clear, uncontaminated, the perfectly refreshing water that your soul needs. Jesus invites you, encourages you, to come to Him and receive His Living Water which purges your guilt and gives rest to your weary souls. Take the water which washes away the dirt inside you and washes away the memories and the sins that gnaw in your guts. Take His water which heals broken hearts and broken lives. Receive His water which quenches your deepest thirst now and into the future.
Believe me when I say that Christ and His Living Waters will always exist. His grace, His love, His forgiveness, His help will never dry up. You may feel spiritually dry, you may be spiritually dry, Christ knows this and comes to you in His Word and with His promises to help you through your dry times. As the Lord says through His prophet Isaiah, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Come to Him, let Him give you the water you need, and the water you can only get from Him.
Each of the Gospels is a little bit different in how they tell the story of Jesus. Saint John is the only one who records this account with the Samaritan woman and Jesus’ teaching on Living Water. Do you know what else John alone records in his Gospel? Jesus hanging on the cross and in His dying woes saying, “I thirst.” There aren’t any coincidences in the Bible! The Living Water who satisfies your deepest spiritual thirst did so by becoming parched in your place. Your spiritual pain cracked His lips, your sorrows filled His throat with chalk, your emptiness drained His body of sweat, and your attempts to satisfy your thirst with saltwater or whatever it is or was, shut down His internal organs and led to His death. He did it for you! Don’t ever forget that. He was parched to the point of death and beyond, all so that when you say “I thirst” He is there for you with the Living Water that He says “will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen