Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Third Sunday in Lent

Third Sunday in Lent
February 24, 2008
Text: John 4:5-30, 39-42

There is nothing more refreshing or more necessary for a dry mouth and a parched throat than water. We need water to live. When we do not have enough water, our body tells us so. We thirst. The human body is roughly 60% water. The brain is 70% water and the lungs are 90% water.[1] We are water and dust, physically speaking. And the water outweighs the dust. Drinking water is next to breathing in terms of importance for keeping our bodies alive and in good health. But one thing is for certain: no matter how much water we drink at any one time, we will have to drink again. We can never drink enough to quench our thirst forever. Thirst is a part of the fallen creation.

And if physical thirst is a part of the fallen creation, how much more is spiritual thirst, dehydration even, a part of the fallen creation! If we need physical water, two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen to live, how much more do we need the living water that only Jesus can give! In our text, Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for a cup of water from the well. He is tired and thirsty from traveling in the hot sun, and He must rely on the woman’s charity if He is to have a drink. But there is something much more important behind Jesus’ request for water. In asking for water from the famous well of Jacob, Jesus opens up an opportunity to discuss the much more important matter of living water with the woman. “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” (John 4:10; ESV).

Now we should point out from the outset that good Jews do not speak to Samaritans, and good Jewish men do not speak to strange women without the presence and permission of the husband or father. When the disciples come back, they are astonished that Jesus is speaking with her (v. 27). Furthermore, as it turns out, this woman is particularly disreputable, having had five husbands and living in sin with another man. But Jesus offers precisely this woman His living water. Everyone who drinks of the water from Jacob’s well, or any well, or any tap for that matter, will be thirsty again, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (v. 14). This is the very water this sinful Samaritan woman needs. For she is parched. She is thirsting.

The Samaritans were confused about how to assuage their spiritual thirst. For them, YHWH was one among many gods, perhaps their chief God, but the Samaritans were the remnants of the ten Northern tribes of Israel taken captive by the Assyrians, who intermarried with the pagan nations upon their return from exile. This woman’s people practiced a religious mixture of the faith of Abraham and pagan idolatry. Add to this religious confusion the fact that this woman was a sinner, one known for her many marriages and unlawful cohabitation, and we see just how much she is in need of the Savior and His living water. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick,” says Jesus (Matt. 9:12). This woman is sick and needs the healing medicine, the living water, of the Great Physician of her soul, Jesus Christ. Jesus does not excuse her sin. He forgives it! He calls her to repentance and gives her the only medicine that can heal her. Jesus offers her living water, and in this way He knows that He is offering that living water not only to the woman at the well, but to all the Samaritans, separated so long from their Jewish brothers and sisters, and to all sinners, everywhere, and at all times, wandering around for so long, spiritually parched, in the wilderness of sin.

So what is this living water, of which those who drink will never be thirsty forever? It may be tempting to automatically equate it with Baptism, but Baptism is only a part of it, the means of receiving it. The living water is the gift of life and salvation in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and all the other gifts that come along with that. In short, the gift is Jesus Himself, the Messiah, come to save His people from their sins. That is the living water. If you have Jesus and His gifts, you will never be spiritually thirsty again, for He offers water living and plentiful. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). Jesus is the righteousness of all who hunger and thirst, and He alone satisfies. The living water of Jesus quenches the driest of sinners.

Beloved, you are thirsty, are you not? You are spiritually parched. You have been wandering around in the arid wilderness of sin for too long now. You have sought water in all the wrong places. Money could not quench your thirst. Sex could not quench it. Not one of the many fleshly pleasures in this life could begin to slake your spiritual dehydration. Not even the good things in life, your spouse, your children, your friends, even your fellow church members can give you what you need outside of Jesus Christ. Repent. Ask Jesus and He will give you living water, His life and His Spirit, His redemption and salvation. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” (Is. 55:1)! Do not refuse. Do not harden your hearts as did the Children of Israel at the waters of Meribah (cf. the OT Lesson, Ex. 17:1-7). Drink deeply of this grace given in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. For He loves you. He died for you. He shed His blood as your ransom, to make peace for you with the Father. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

How do you get this living water? Jesus gives it abundantly to all who worship Him in Spirit and in truth, which is to say, all who receive this living water in the Word and Sacraments. This water proceeds from the spiritual rock, which is Christ, who goes with His spiritual Israel, the Holy Church. When the side of this rock is struck, water and blood flow out, filling font and chalice, giving birth to the Holy Bride of Christ, His new Eve, the Church. Jesus comes to the well seeking His Bride, just as Abraham’s servant sought Rebekah for Isaac at a well (Gen. 24) and Jacob sought Rachel at a well (Gen. 29). Jesus is indeed greater than the patriarch Jacob. He is the new and greater Jacob. He seeks to gather His Bride into His house, here, where He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word (Eph. 5:26), where He might whisper His wooing Word into her ear, forgiving all her sins, and prepare a wedding feast for her at His Table. This is the living water. It is to this that Jesus calls you this morning.

Those worship the Father in Spirit and in truth who worship where Jesus is present. And He is present here in His congregation, speaking His Word into our ears and hearts and feeding us His true body and blood, given into death on Calvary’s holy mountain, and raised to life again on Easter morn. We do not have to worship on Mount Gerizim, as the Samaritans mistakenly did. And we no longer have to worship in the Jerusalem temple. Jesus is the location for worship in Spirit and in truth. Jesus is the new Temple, the dwelling place of God with men. Wherever Jesus is, there are those who worship the Father in faith, in the Holy Spirit, in the truth of His Word.

May God bestow on us His grace that we, too, might worship Him in Spirit and in truth along with the woman at the well and the other Samaritans who came to Jesus in faith that day. Yes, there were others, for when the woman encountered Christ, she could not help but tell others about Him. “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29). Some of the woman’s fellow Samaritans believed on the basis of her word. She spoke the Gospel to them, and they believed in Christ. “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did’” (v. 39). But the woman did not stop there. She brought her townsfolk to a place where they could hear Jesus for themselves. “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 indeed the Savior of the world’” (vv. 41-42). So also may we, who have come to be convinced ourselves that Jesus is indeed the Savior of the world, speak His Word to others, and bring them here, to the Church, where they can hear Him for themselves, and become members of His holy Bride, washed clean of all sin, united to His death and resurrection, and given living water in abundance.

And may God grant us His grace that we not neglect to drink this water ourselves. Water is necessary for the health and survival of our bodies. The living water of Jesus is necessary for our spiritual and eternal health and survival. If you knew the gift of God and who it is that speaks to you, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water, such that whoever drinks from it will never be thirsty forever. You do know the gift. You receive it right here where He has promised. And you know the voice of the One who speaks to you, your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Come often to His house. Come to the waters. Receive His gifts. Worship in Spirit and in truth. For the water that Jesus gives becomes in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Percentages from USGS,


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