John 4:5-26

3rd Sunday in Lent – 3/12/2023

Good news! Spring arrives a week from tomorrow! At least, it does on the calendar, if not in fact. After this winter, we'll believe it when we see it, right? We have been deceived before! Many times in the last several weeks, we've seen again and again the spring-like days come, only to be replaced the very next day with the cold and snow of this long winter!

Plus, we've gotten some much-needed rain during this long winter. Here in the parched, thirsty ground of Eastern Montana, moisture in whatever form is always welcome!

Our text today is all about receiving needed moisture as well. However, it is not about quenching the thirst of drought-stricken land but the quenching of the thirst of the parched human soul. The events described in this text took place quite conveniently at a watering hole outside the Samaritan city of Sychar.

But we must say at the outset that, similarly to many incidents in Jesus' ministry, this occurrence leaves us all to wonder if this was all simply coincidental or if it had not all been carefully planned by Jesus. Of course, there is no way to give a definitive answer, but John has left us plenty of clues from which we can conclude that this was no chance meeting.

First, in a previous verse, John had already noted that on His trip from Judea to Galilee, "it was necessary" for Jesus "to go through Samaria." Logistically, that was true enough if one wanted to take the shortest route to Galilee from Judea. One problem is that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. They considered them spiritually unclean. Just entering Gentile territory would cause one to defile himself. The Jews, therefore, were always careful to travel around Samaria. Not Jesus, though. He went through the very heart of Samaria.

The non-coincidental nature of this stop is also shown to us in that Jesus didn't stop at just any watering hole. No, he sat down at one of the more famous and historical sites in all of Samaria. That well sat on the property Jacob had covenanted to give his son Joseph as an inheritance. Jacob himself had dug the well.

Another thing: John says Jesus' disciples had gone into town to buy food. Why didn't Jesus go with them? John notes that Jesus was "tired from His journey," but I'm sure the apostles were also. A little farther into town certainly would not have taxed this man, who had spent 40 days in the wilderness without food and drink!

I'm confident Jesus purposely stopped at this well in the heart of Gentile territory, with its rich history and religious significance, as part of His ultimate mission, which He would delineate elsewhere: to seek and save the lost. These lost ones included the lost sheep of the house of Israel and those from another flock, the Gentiles. When the disciples returned from their shopping trip to find Jesus still at the well, they were perplexed why He did not seem anxious to eat. Jesus replied, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me... Behold, I say, lift your eyes and look on the fields. They are white for the harvest." That's it: the harvest of souls! Jesus intentionally stopped at this well in the heart of Samaritan territory to harvest a soul!

In the very same way, it is not an accident that any of you are Christians today. You didn't just stumble upon Jesus or find him on your own. He purposely found you! Somewhere along the road of your lives, Jesus sat down at a resting place to give you a drink of the life-giving waters only He can provide. The Lord met you in the waters of Holy Baptism. He called you here by the Gospel proclaimed to you by a friend, a family member, a Sunday School teacher, or a pastor. And he did so to quench your thirst.

Let's get back to Jacob's well. It was short, and the purpose of Jesus' respite made itself known. A woman of Sychar came to the well to draw water. It was the 6th hour, that is, noon. It was not even the customary time to draw water. That was usually done early in the day before the sun became too hot. The stage was set, and Jesus took the initiative. He asked her to draw water so that she might give him a drink.

The woman was taken aback by Jesus' question to her. His request was simple enough, but she could tell by his dress and accent that he was a Jew. Accordingly, she was genuinely puzzled as to why he would be so willing to defile himself in this way. On top of being a Samaritan, she also knew it was considered taboo for a man to speak to a strange woman.

Jesus, on the other hand, did not respond directly to the woman's question. Instead, he directed her attention away from Jewish traditions and protocol to look upon him as someone who had come to give her what she needed—a true soul-quenching drink. Jesus answered her: "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."

Jesus' response is the heart of this whole text and the heart of Jesus' purpose for arranging this "chance meeting" at Jacob's well. It is also at the heart of Jesus' whole purpose for coming into our world and why He seeks to commune with you and me today. Jesus didn't need the woman to give him a drink. Just as He doesn't need you and me to worship Him, he came to give her a heavenly gift—to quench her thirsty soul. That gift is the living water of faith in Him as her Savior. Later, Jesus would say, "I am the bread of life." He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty" (Jn. 6:35).

Jesus was willing to defile Himself to provide her with "living water." He was genuinely calling this woman to have faith in Him. "Drink of Me!" He was saying! "He who believes in me has eternal life!"

However, until a person sees her thirst, Jesus' offer to give her living water runs off her like rain or quickly melting snow off frozen winter ground. So we see with this woman. She responded, still buried in worldly concerns and things, questioning Jesus' integrity and abilities. She told him, "You don't even have a bucket to draw water! How can you give me something to drink? Besides, you can't possibly say you can provide me with any better water than the great patriarch, Jacob, did. Can you?" As far as she was concerned, Jesus had nothing to offer her.

Isn't this precisely where our world is and, quite frankly, where we often are? We tend to long for only that which satisfies our physical needs and pleasures. Going to those earthly wells that promise to satisfy us is all too often our highest priority in life. We can even feel no need for the church. It's just another organization to belong to that zaps our time and energy, which are in short supply these hectic days. We see no reason the Bible should occupy any place in our lives other than a respectful place on the coffee table. And Jesus has many thought-provoking things to say and has helped many people, but what has He done for you and me lately?

Next, Jesus attempted to help the woman see the real shortcomings and failures of the wells she had been going to quench her thirst. He directed her once more to Himself as the real well of life-giving water. "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again," he responded to her, "but whoever drinks the water I give him will never be thirsty." Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

No kind of worldly watering lasts. No matter what we turn to satisfy our thirst for life, it always leaves us dry and dead. No matter how drunk or high we get, the problems loom even larger when we sober up. No matter how much we win on the Keno machines, it will never be enough to keep our promise to quit. No matter how much money we accumulate or put away in our nest egg, all it takes is one stock market crash, a terrorist attack, or a financial scandal, and suddenly we find nothing. All the fame and success we achieve can never bring true happiness. The morgues are full of the rich and famous who died feeling unfulfilled.

However, just as this well of Jacob continued to supply the people of that region with a ready supply of essential water for generations, so only Jesus can provide the water that can continue to quench our thirsty spirits and well up in us to eternal life. "He who believes in Me has eternal life," Jesus promises.

Jesus offers us no temporary fix. He quenches permanently and forever. Just as the Book of Revelations pictures the believers in Jesus Christ: "They shall hunger no more, nor thirst any more... for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life..." (Rev. 7:16, 17).

The woman responded to Jesus' promise to give her life-giving water by requesting that Jesus give her this water so she would no longer need to come to Jacob's well. That tells us that she still didn't get it! Her head was still in the world. Neither did she understand her real thirst. Jesus could make her life easier, but she still didn't see Him as her Savior.

So many, inside and outside the church, look at Jesus similarly. It's almost as if He is their lucky charm or a benevolent benefactor. If you ask them if Jesus is their Savior, they will respond, "Oh, yes!" But if you ask them to tell you what they look to Jesus for, they will say they look to him to keep them from all physical harm, heal them when they get sick, fill their pockets, or bring them success. But the concept that they need Jesus to make them right with God because of their sin seems completely foreign. The problem is, like this woman, we are often so confused and controlled by our lusts that we can't figure out what we are thirsty for or even have a thirst.

Correspondingly, Jesus found it necessary to expose the woman's real thirst so that she could see it for herself. And it wasn't hard to do since she had been living in open adultery. Jesus asked her to bring her husband back to speak with him very cleverly. With that one request, her real thirst was made known. She willingly confessed her sin and that her life was wrong with God. She had wandered from man to man, having had five ex-husbands, and was still living in sin with another man outside marriage. Her very lifestyle made it evident that she was not finding fulfillment. Her sin left her with a thirsty soul apart from God and in danger of dying eternally.

You and I might not be caught up in adultery, but sin also seeks to cause a drought in our souls. Every sin puts us on the outs with God and under His wrath. Sin always dries up life within us, especially sin that is not repented. Unrepented sin leaves us only with death, physical and spiritual. We might think we need many things, but more than anything else, we need God and the grace and life only He can give. The Psalmist cries out, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?" (42:1,2). Jesus is God's life-giving presence with us.

The woman's flesh would not give up and surrender to Jesus without a fight. She threw up a smoke screen to take the scrutiny off her sinful condition: "I can see that you are a prophet," she said. "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." She turned the spotlight on Jesus. Why should she accept His word—the word of a Jew? Her nation's clergy members had a different version of true religion.

Interesting. Whenever God, through His servants, attempts to expose our real need—our damned condition and need for forgiveness—we immediately resist Him by taking the focus off ourselves and throwing it on someone else.

The attacks are furious and personal: "So, who are you to question my integrity?" Or we avoid our self-condemnation by pointing to the problems in the church (Zehnder, CPR, vol. 3, Part 2, p. 14). "The church teaches that what I'm doing is a sin, but that church down the road doesn't. It says it is an acceptable lifestyle. It's just your interpretation of the Bible."

However, Jesus did not argue religion with the woman, nor should we. He witnessed the truth and left her with no room to dodge the real issue: true salvation for a thirsty soul. "Salvation was only from the Jews," he said. The Samaritans might have had some elements of the truth but did not have salvation.

Only through His Old Covenant People, the Jews, did God preserve the promise of the Messiah, and only through them would the Messiah come. That's why the wise men came to Jerusalem to find the Messiah, not to Mount Gerizim. God preserved His Word through these people; from them, His Word would take on flesh and come into this world. Jesus was a Jew.

However, even the Jews missed seeing Jesus as their Messiah. They rejected the gift of salvation that God desired to give them. Only those who believe in Jesus Christ as God's Messiah have God and can rightly worship Him. Jesus Himself has said, "He who does not have the Son does not have the Father who sent Him..." Again, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes unto the Father except by Me."

It must be said boldly, especially in this pluralistic society in which we live today, "Christianity is the only true religion! There is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ!" No matter what anyone says, even those so-called Christian Bible scholars who claim that all sincerely religious people will be saved even if they don't believe in Jesus, Only Jesus is the true God in human flesh. Only Jesus makes the Father known to us. Only Jesus has atoned for the sins of the world. There is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ.

Likewise, only Jesus can truly satisfy the thirst that sin has left in our spirits and bodies because only He endured our thirst for us. It is no coincidence that John records that Jesus, the only one who can give life-giving water, sat down at this well at the 6th hour. John later records that Jesus at this very same sixth hour was crucified (Jn. 19:14). John also records that from His cross, Jesus, the quencher of all thirst, was heard to cry out himself: "I thirst" (19:28). Only Jesus can be our Savior because only He experienced the ultimate thirst that was ours by our sin: the utter horridness of being abandoned by God. He cried, "My God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus became parched so that the woman at the well and you and I might all be graciously given to drink the water of life through the forgiveness of our sins. Our drought is ended in Jesus! Through faith in Him, water springs forth in us to eternal life!

This Samaritan woman's thirst was quenched for the first time. She was brought to faith in Jesus, immediately left her water pot at the well, and rushed into town to tell her friends and family the good news that the Messiah had come. She had gone out to Jacob's well to get the water that would leave her thirsty again, but she went home totally refreshed and quenched, having been given to drink life-giving water in Jesus Christ through His Word.

Dear friends, the drought is over for you as well! Again today, Jesus meets you in His Word and Holy Sacraments to quench your thirst. Leave behind, in repentance, the sin that parches you. Drink in the life-giving water that flows from Jesus' thirst: forgiveness and life. Amen!

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