The Third Sunday in Lent
March 12, 2023
5So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10Jesus 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.”
11“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”
13Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
25The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
One of the basic needs that every human being has is the need for water. Whether we’ve been working out in our yard or working out in the gym, the words “I’m thirsty!” easily come out of our mouths. Even if we haven’t been doing anything that could be described as being physically strenuous, we still get thirsty. Our bodies need to be hydrated on a regular basis and the very best way to meet that need is by drinking water. If we don’t drink enough water we become dehydrated. If we become dehydrated we can experience fatigue, dizziness, and confusion. If we become dehydrated that can have a negative impact on our internal organs. The scary part is that a person can become dehydrated and not even feel thirsty!
Our sermon text for today takes that basic need that every human being has— the need for water— and uses it to highlight one of the greatest needs that every human being has— the need for “living water.” Our goal today is to see that just as it is important to listen to our physical body when it says to us, “I’m thirsty!” it is even more important to listen to our soul when it says to us: “I’m Thirsty!”
The simple fact that water is one of the basic needs that every human being has is why our text focuses on two people who came to Jacob’s well. It soon becomes clear, however, that while both of these individuals were thirsty on a physical level, one of them was even more thirsty on a spiritual level. That distinction is brought out when the Holy Spirit has John record this conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a 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.’”
Notice how Jesus takes that basic need that the Samaritan woman has— the need for water— and uses it to start focusing her attention on her greatest need— the need for “living water.” This is a beautiful example for us to follow as we are striving to share the message of Jesus with someone who does not know who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for them. Look for something in their life that they already recognize as a need and help them to see how that basic need ties in with their greatest need. Here Jesus uses water. We, however, might find ourselves in a situation where the need is food, or companionship, or acceptance, or forgiveness. When you take a moment to look at the basic needs that people have today it is nothing short of amazing at how well those basic needs correlate to their greatest needs.
Did the Samaritan woman automatically recognize how her basic need for water tied in with her greatest need — her need for “living water”? Not at all. Look at verses eleven and twelve of our text. While she was still focused on physical water, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep,” she was starting to sense that Jesus was not just an ordinary weary traveler looking for a drink of water. “Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well?”
This is the kind of reaction we pray for as we are striving to lead someone from a basic need to recognizing their greatest need! If we can get them to start talking and thinking and asking us questions, then we can lead them into an even deeper truth. That’s exactly what we see Jesus doing when He says to the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
We, of course, know that the “living water” that only Jesus can give refers to eternal life. Everyone who “drinks” this “living water,” that is, everyone who has faith in Jesus as their Savior will “never thirst” again! Their soul’s “thirst” for everlasting life will be quenched! The Samaritan woman, however, still doesn’t understand, does she. She wanted what Jesus was offering, but she was still confused because she was still focused on physical water. That’s why she said to Jesus, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Relief from physical thirst would have been enough for her— or so she thought!
Jesus then directs this woman to her greatest need by drawing her attention to an even deeper “thirst”— the “thirst” her soul was experiencing. The Lord reveals her soul’s thirst by using the power of God’s holy Law. John goes on to tell us, “He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is true.’”
Now we see why this woman came to draw water from Jacob’s well at noontime, when the sun is hottest. She had been living the kind of life that other people talked about. So instead of drawing water in the evening when all of the other women from town came out to Jacob’s well, she came to draw water when she figured no one else from town would be there. She wanted to avoid all the whispering. She wanted to avoid all the stares.
We dare not overlook the fact that even though Jesus knew the kind of life this woman had been living He didn’t reject her or avoid her. He knew that her soul was thirsty for lasting happiness, but that her thirst led her into a lifestyle that could not and did not bring her the happiness and the fulfillment that she was searching for. Once again, our Savior gives us a beautiful pattern to follow, doesn’t He. When we know that someone is living their life in a way that contradicts God’s will for them, we don’t “thump” them over the head with our Bible and tell them to go away. We carefully use God’s holy Law to expose their sin with the goal of using God’s glorious Gospel to introduce them to the forgiveness that their Savior has won for them!
That’s precisely what Jesus did with this Samaritan woman. He used the fact that her soul was thirsty for something that was real, something that was lasting, something that would fill the emptiness her soul was experiencing, to bring her to an understanding of the Truth. Now that Jesus had successfully led her to see that her greatest need was spiritual she revealed one of her spiritual concerns. She said to Jesus, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is Jerusalem.’”
The woman who came to Jacob’s well to quench her physical thirst now wanted to know how to quench her spiritual thirst. Since she recognized Jesus as a “prophet” she was hoping that Jesus could explain to her how she could worship God— properly. Jesus addressed her concern by emphasizing two truths. First, she needed to recognize that “salvation comes from the Jews.” The Promised Messiah would not come from a Samaritan background. No, rather, the Promised Messiah would come from the house and line of David. Second, she needed to recognize that where she worshiped God was not nearly as important as how she worshiped God. “God is spirit,” Jesus told her, “and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” Worshiping God properly means that our worship must come from our heart. Any worship that centers on merely “going through the motions,” any worship that centers on making sure that we “say all the right words” is unacceptable— no matter where we are worshiping! Worshiping God properly also means that we worship Him “in the sphere of truth”— the “truth” that He Himself has revealed to us here in His holy Word. Any worship that is not “in the sphere of truth,” that is, any worship that is based on human logic and human opinion is also unacceptable— no matter where we are worshiping!
The Samaritan woman who had a “thirsty” soul now recognized her greatest need. She expressed that greatest need when she said to Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” To this Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” This is why it was necessary for Jesus to stop at Jacob’s well. This is why it was necessary for Jesus to go against custom and culture and ask a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. Jesus knew that while “salvation is from the Jews,” salvation is not only for the Jews! Jesus knew that He came into this world to suffer and die for the sins of all people— both Jews and Gentiles alike. Jesus knew that the basic need that everyone has for physical water is testimony to the greatest need that everyone has— the need for “living water.”
The application of this text to our lives is two-fold, my friends. It’s no secret that we live in a world and in a nation that is becoming more and more divided. As people who have been given the gift of “living water” we cannot be stingy with that gift. Our Savior wants us to share His “living water” with everyone— no matter what their ethnic background may be, no matter what the color of their skin might be, no matter what language they speak, and no matter what they have done. Everyone has the same greatest need. Everyone has a soul that is “thirsty”— “thirsty” for the Truth, “thirsty” for the “living water” that God has graciously revealed to us.
At the same time, we need to recognize that our soul gets “thirsty” too! Yes, we know who Jesus is. Yes, we know what Jesus has done for us. (Pointing to the cross) But we are traveling through a spiritually dry and desolate world. Every single day our soul is radiated with ideas and opinions that directly contradict what our God says in His Word. If we allow our soul to become “dehydrated,” if we do not refresh our soul with the “living water” that Jesus provides in His holy Word and His holy Sacrament, the results could be disastrous for our soul— eternally disastrous! Don’t let that happen to you, my friends. You have personal direct access to the “living water” that only Jesus can provide. Let your soul “drink” from the well of salvation on a regular basis.
“I’m thirsty!” Those two little words serve as a daily reminder to us that one of the most basic needs we have is to drink plenty of water. Neglecting that basic need will always result in negative consequences for our body. “I’m thirsty!” My prayer this morning is that those two little words will also serve as a daily reminder to us that one of our greatest needs is our soul’s need for “living water.” Neglecting that need will always have negative consequences for our soul. May God grant that we will not only listen to our soul when it says, “I’m thirsty!” but may God grant that we will quench that need with the “living water” that our Savior has so freely provided to us!
To God be the glory!