“Give Me A Drink”

John 4:5-42

3rd Sunday of Lent, March 23, 2014

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & Zion West Walworth United Methodist Churches

(note: this message is an expansion on the original thoughts of Larry Gillick, S. J., to whom I am deeply indebted.)

 

John 4:5-42

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common 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 no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

 

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 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 have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 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 seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

 

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

 

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

 

Prayer.

 

Water.

Water is a consistent theme through the Gospel of John.

  •  Water is turned to wine early in Jesus’ ministry. (2:7-10)
  • Jesus baptized (3:22) in water, as did John.
  • A paralyzed man is healed by dipping himself into a pool. (5:1-18)
  • The apostles are fishing by themselves out on the lake when a storm brews.
  • Jesus walks on water out to them. (6:16-21)
  • Jesus cries out to Passover crowds, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.” (7:37-38)
  •  A man born blind washes the clay from his eyes in the pool, and he can see again. (9:1-12)
  • Jesus washes his disciples feet with water. (13:5)
  •  At his crucifixion, when Jesus’ side is pierced, “at once blood and water came out.” (19:34)
  • Even the final scene in John is located with Jesus and his disciples “by the Sea of Tiberias” (21:1), a breathtaking body of water.

And here today,

Jesus meets a woman at a well.

What is it with Jesus, John, and water?

 

Water, bread, and light form consistent themes with John.

It is almost as if

John wants to create the memorable,

a common foundation

for those new to the faith.

 

Water is about deliverance;

a divining rod that points us back

to our ancestors,

Hebrew slaves fleeing Pharaoh.

The divine initiative heard their cry and parted the sea

to ensure their deliverance.

It is also the hand of God

That flooded judgment upon Israel’s pursuers;

the horse and chariot drowned in the sea.

 

It was by the waters of Babylon,

At Israel’s lowest point,

That we broke and wept

Leading God to relent  judgment

And transform those rivers

Into the means of divine deliverance.

 

It is as if

Our Gospel author

also wants to assure those experienced in the faith,

that water is a consistent thread

woven throughout God’s salvation history.

 

Water is also about baptism;

the initiation into community

as well as the cleansing of past sins.

Jacob’s well could have just as well been a baptismal font,

for, over it, there are liturgical gestures,

rubrics,

words of faith,

and a call to express belief.

The dialogue flows like liturgy.

More than mere words,

the sacred dance between Jesus and this woman

has been repeated time and again

throughout Christendom

at the baptismal font.

 

Something good is about to happen.

It is high noon, the scene opens, and the drama has begun.

Jesus has no bucket.

He is thirsty, peering into a well.

But there is no way to get water.

A pure-blooded Jew wouldn’t use a communal bucket even if one was available. Dietary laws prevented such reckless behavior,

especially in a territory populated by mixed breed Samaritans.

Pure-blooded Jews just didn’t mix with “those kind.”

A well with no bucket.

This apparent crisis is no different than “They have no wine.”

It is no different than “Five loaves and two fish, but there are so many among us.”

 

The invitation is subtle and indirect:

Those who drink of my water, living water, never thirst again.

Jesus is the water.

He is the solution

for her life-long thirst for something more,

something meaningful,

something profound.

This woman had a parade of successive husbands.

It’s easy to paint her negatively

like so many have done in the past.

Let us temper our opinion:

She may have been a serial victim.

We don’t know the source of this woman’s dissatisfaction or unhappiness.

Jesus is the only living water

that can quench the thirst

she has in her soul.

Through him, sins are washed away.

Through him, one is restored to community.

Through him, life becomes eternal.

 

Living could have meant flowing;

As opposed to stagnant.

Stagnant water is likely to become contaminated,

Even transformed into a swamp or quagmire. 

“Sir, give me this water”

is the temporal request of a woman seeking to fill her buckets.

She just needs it to be fresh and pure.

 

This is the temporal request we make

when become so myopic

that we fail to see beyond our own front door.

Just give me a drink, Jesus,

ice water with a slice of lemon,

and keep it coming.

I’m thirsty, really thirsty

and I want to quench my thirst.

 

But Jesus intends something more.

His intentional choice of words

gives him the latitude to convey a deeper meaning.

Living meant life-giving.

He elaborates,

“Whoever believes in me, as scripture says,

‘Rivers of living water will flow from within.’”

 

The Spirit flows from within.

Living water is the life-giving presence of God

given to all those who see and believe.

Living water is the Spirit of Jesus taking up residence

in the heart of believers.

This is what gives us life … today.

This is what gives us life … moving forward.

This is what gives us life … everlasting.

 

“Come and see” is this woman’s plea when she returns to the village.

“Come and see” is the echo of a previous passage from John,

when Jesus invited his first followers.

“Come and see” is really the deeper,

hidden agenda of John.

“Come and see” is really

what first drew us to Jesus;

It is honestly

Our curiosity that brought us to worship and leads us to the altar.

We’ve come to see.

When people come and see Jesus for who he is,

true Living Water,

every thirst is satisfied,

and our response becomes like a reflex:

“This is truly the Savior of the world!”

 

How poignant; especially during this season of Lent!

No other time during the Christian year is the need for a Savior so obvious.

When the world is apparently going to hell in a handbasket,

When chaos is swirling all around,

Jesus becomes the eye of the storm; the calm center that saves our life.

When

  • airliners disappear from radar,
  • Russians invade,
  • and Wall Street trumps Main Street;

When

  • the dog is barking,
  • we are working too many hours with apparently no recognition,
  • we’re sitting in the middle of a pile of unpaid bills,
  • we are passing each other like ships in the night;

When

our spiritual lives are parched

and we cry out in thirst,

“Lord give me a drink!”

flood gates crack!

Jesus pours into our soul.

 

Jesus becomes Living Water

quenching our deepest desire.

Living Water becomes

the only solution in our eternal search.

Living Water becomes for us

that which satisfies

our existential thirst.

 

We need a Savior;

in spite of our brave front, false pride and inflated ego.

We need a Savior;

to help us find out who we truly are, and where it is that we are supposed to go.

We need a Savior;

to save us from this damnable brew of temptation and sin.

We need a Savior;

to suffer and die, and three days later, rise again.

Like the un-named Samaritan woman at the well,

we need a Savior;

to give us Living Water,

to deliver us from our sins

and save us into eternal life.

 

We need a Savior

To give us a drink

Of Living Water.

 

Amen.