3rd Sunday in Lent (A)
March 12, 2023
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 from St. John.
During a work trip with my wife, I had a chance encounter with the head of technical support for her company. I had never met him before, we just ended up sitting together at dinner. By the time dinner was over though this stranger was a potential boss, and a few months later, a real boss. Maybe you’ve experienced something similar: an unexpected meeting which led to a new job, a good friend, a loving spouse, or the renewal of a long-lost friendship. The Samaritan woman had what appeared to be a chance encounter because she wasn’t expecting to talk to Jesus. Jesus had other plans. He came to the well to meet this thirsty woman, just like He comes to meet you at yours.
The Gospel finds Jesus on His way back to Galilee with Saint John saying, “And He had to pass through Samaria.” The thing was though that Jesus didn’t have to go through Samaria. Many Jewish travelers took the long way between Jerusalem and Galilee to avoid Samaria all together. Not Jesus. He went straight through Samaria because He was on a mission to seek and to save the lost.
John writes, “So Jesus 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 [noon].” Was it a coincidence Jesus sat down at that well at that time? You know the answer! Jesus set up a “chance encounter” to save a lost soul, and when she appeared He simply asked for a drink, not an unreasonable request; except for the little issue of their ethnicity. I imagine her looking around to see if there was someone behind her because there was no way a Jew would talk to her, let alone ask for something.
There’s some speculation that because the woman had been married five times and was living with a different guy that she was an outcast, and that she was trying to fill a void in her life with men. This may or may not be true. Either way though, she was a sinner. Which Jesus gently got her to confess by telling her to get her husband. But did you notice Jesus met her where she was at? He didn’t wait for her to get her act together; He simply brought her what she needed. He doesn’t wait for you to get your act together either, He comes to you now.
When you encounter Jesus at the well, what kind of person do you think He sees? Do you think He sees someone who fights boredom and depression with a lot of booze, or someone who drinks a lot because that’s what everybody does? Does He meet a dad or mom who is flat worn out by everything that has to be done: get to work, get home, get the kids, get to sports, get to school, get to bed, all to get up and do it all over again? Does He meet a kid who is crumbling under the pressure of being a kid? Struggling with grades, friends, fears, loneliness, and the ever-present social media overload? Does He see a person wearied by one medical issue after another? Does He see a person like the woman at the well, just doing the monotonous daily chores that have to be done and sees life as just one drudgery after another? Does He see a person struggling with a pornography addiction that traps them in a never-ending cycle of sin and shame? Does He see someone who is just sick and tired of the disappointments of life? Does He see someone who is hurting so bad they’re contemplating throwing themselves headfirst down the well and ending it all?
Then maybe, you’re sitting here thinking that Jesus sees none of this in you. Maybe you’re addiction free, your family runs nice and smooth, you’ve got a good life free of monotony, you’re happy and healthy. If that’s true praise God for He is good! But don’t think that this means Jesus hasn’t come to meet you too, He has. Because like the woman at the well, we are all sinners. And that’s why Jesus meets us at the well! Jesus talked to the woman because He knew she needed more. He is talking to you because He knows you need more than this life can give. You need more than physical water and other such things. You need Him, the Living Water!
To listen to the conversation between the Samaritan woman and Jesus is kind of entertaining. He asks for a drink, she pretty much says no, He offers living water which confuses her because He doesn’t have a bucket. He offers living water again which she thinks is great because then she won’t have to lug the jar to the well anymore. Jesus wanted to give her Himself, the Living Water, but first she had to see her need for it. So, Jesus calls her on her sin. Gently, but it’s there. “Call your husband.” “I have no husband.” “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.” We don’t know if she was ashamed by her behavior before meeting Jesus or not, but after these words from Jesus, she is struck by her sin.
She says, “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.” In other words, where can she go to be forgiven. She’s been taught that she should go to Mount Gerizim while the Jews say Jerusalem. Where does she go to get the Living Water? Jesus says it had been Jerusalem, but that’s all changed. He says, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” The place is no longer a place – it’s a person – it’s Him. I love this next part. She says, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ). When He comes, He will tell us all things.” And Jesus says, “I who speak to you am He.” He has met her at the well and suddenly her whole life is changed! She’s forgiven and she doesn’t have to go hunt it down, it’s right there in front of her.
When you are at the well, you may wonder where to go to get what you need. Where do you find forgiveness? Or hope? Or relief? Or rest? Or help? Or escape? Or purpose? Or love? Where do you go? How about who comes to you? Christ comes to you and offers you Living Water. He offers you Himself. It’s in Him that you find whatever it is that you’re looking for. He knows your needs, just as He knew those of the Samaritan woman, and every other person He encountered. He knows the hurts that you try to keep masked or buried. He knows the pain you feel and it doesn’t matter if it’s physical, spiritual, or psychological. He knows your pain because He experienced it! Nothing surprises Jesus and nothing you confess will cause Him to love you less. To the contrary, that’s why He came! His life and death were all about you! In His body He suffered wounds due to your sins. He also endured the agony of heartache, addiction, disappointment, monotony, drudgery, pressure, and the entirety of earthly suffering. Jesus could’ve avoided Samaria by going a different route, but He didn’t. Jesus didn’t have that option with the cross. He didn’t avoid the pain. Instead, He hoisted a cross and with it carried your sins, disappointments, and everything else to the top where He died.
When the woman came to see Jesus as the Savior, He didn’t offer her complete and total freedom from the difficulties of this life. He didn’t tell her that everything was going to be honky-dory from here on out. But He promised that the Living Water would sustain her. That she was forgiven sinner, loved and redeemed by God, and that the day would come when she would no longer thirst because of the sin and hardship of this life.
I wish I could promise you that everything will work out for you in this life. But I can’t promise that. What I can promise you is that Jesus made you His child through the Living Water of Baptism. I can promise you that Jesus is here at this altar where He gives you Himself. I can promise you that every time you open your Bible, you’ll find Jesus speaking His promises to you. This means He is your hope and healing. He is your peace and rest. He is your strength and your shield. He is your rescuer and your guide. He is your light and your path. He is your God and Savior.
When is a chance encounter not a chance encounter? When it’s been planned obviously. This woman didn’t know Jesus came to see her, but when it was all over, she saw Him for who He is. When Jesus meets you, it’s not a coincidence. Our Lord seeks you out! He finds you! Forgives you! Loves you! Cares for you! There was no chance encounter that brought you to faith. It was Christ, and in Him, you find the living waters that will sustain you every day of your life so that you will never thirst again.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen