Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Third Sunday in Lent

Third Sunday in Lent (A)

March 23, 2014
Text: John 4:5-30, 39-42

            It is a recurring theme in Holy Scripture: marriages are made at the well.  Just this past week in Bible Study we witnessed Abraham’s servant find a godly wife, Rebekah, for Isaac, that the promise of Abraham’s Seed through whom all the nations would be blessed be carried forward through Isaac’s line (Gen. 24).  You’ve also been reading that account this week if you use the Treasury of Daily Prayer for your devotions.  Isaac’s son Jacob, whom God would later name Israel, likewise met his wife Rachel at a well (Gen. 29).  Moses met his wife Zipporah at a well (Ex. 2).  Now, to be sure, our Lord Jesus is not interested in making a marriage with the Samaritan woman in our Holy Gospel, though marriage is a rather important, albeit incidental, topic of the discussion.  Still, there is something coming to fulfillment here at Jacob’s well to which all the other wells and marriage-matches point in testimony.  Our Lord is not looking for carnal marriage with the woman at the well.  But as a Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, by the living water of His Word, has come to incorporate this Samaritan woman as a member of His holy Bride, the Church. 
            Jesus meets sinners at the well.  Jesus meets us at the water.  He meets us at the font.  And there He does for us what He did for the Samaritan woman.  He meets us in mercy and incorporates us into the Body of His Bride, the Church.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5; ESV), Jesus said to us last week.  He was speaking of Holy Baptism, where water is joined to God’s Word, by God’s command, and in this way becomes a life-giving, sin-cleansing, Spirit and faith bestowing water by which God writes His Name on you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and makes you His child.  He meets you at the well, right there at the font, to make you His own.  And He starts by drowning your unbelieving and incapable of believing sinful flesh.  The Old Adam in you must be drowned and die with all sin and evil desires.  It happens in Baptism, and it will continue to happen each and every day as you live your Christian life in your Baptism.  It is a daily thing, this drowning.  We call it repentance.  Jesus accomplishes this in you by pointing out your need.  He does this by making demands of you that you cannot keep.  In other words, He preaches His holy Law, so that by looking in the mirror of the holy Law you will recognize your sin, your lack, and realize just how badly you need what Jesus comes to give you.  So, for example, Jesus says to the woman at the well, “Give me a drink” (John 4:7).  The request is simple enough on the face of it.  But it leads to a discussion whereby Jesus shows the woman a greater need within herself than simple physical thirst.  She needs living water, water which, when you drink it, you never thirst again.  And if she knew who it was who was asking her for a drink, she would have turned the question around.  She would have asked Him.  Because only He can give this living water.  And what is that?  It is His life-giving Word.  It is the Gospel.  It is that which Jesus pours out upon us at the well in Baptism, in Scripture and preaching, and in the Supper of His Body and Blood.  It is that which raises us out of death to new life in Christ.  It is the forgiveness of sins.  It is eternal salvation.  It is the Spirit of the living God.  It is the water that takes root in a person and becomes an ever flowing spring, a living faith in Jesus Christ that wells up to eternal life, that then spills over in works of love toward the neighbor.
            The disciples, and the woman herself, for that matter, think it an astonishing thing that Jesus is speaking to a Samaritan woman, and one who has a reputation, at that.  To be sure, this woman is a notorious sinner.  Jesus gently points this out.  Divorce, and living together outside of marriage: sins, in spite of what our culture teaches us.  “Go, call your husband,” He says, innocently enough (v. 16).  But He knows what He is doing.  He is leading her to confess her sins.  Again, He is putting to death her Old Adam, the sinful nature, the flesh.  “I have no husband,” she replies (v. 17).  “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.  What you have said is true” (v. 18).  Notice that Jesus is gentle with this poor sinner, and yet, He does not ignore the sin.  He does not allow her to go on living dishonestly.  She must come face to face with the sin, so that it can be dealt with in such a way that it no longer destroys her and others.  Love demands that Jesus state the matter plainly.  Love demands that Jesus proclaim the Law.  But He doesn’t do this to condemn or to shun the sinner.  He always does it for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel.  He kills so that He can make alive.  He brings this poor woman to the realization of her thirst, of her mortal dehydration, that He may give her the living water of forgiveness and restoration and life eternal.  “(T)he hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (v. 23).  The hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father by the new birth of water and the Spirit; by Spirit-given faith in the Son, Jesus Christ; by believing the living water of Jesus’ Word.  The hour is coming.  And the hour is now here.  It is here in Jesus.  “I know that Messiah is coming… When he comes, he will tell us all things” (v. 25).  Indeed.  And here He is.  “Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (v. 26).  No, you miss the full force of it in that English translation.  Here is what the text really says: “Jesus is saying to her, ‘I AM, the One who is speaking to you’” (translation mine).  I AM, YHWH, right here, in the flesh, come to give living water to the thirsty, righteousness to sinners, life to the dead.  Jesus comes to the well… God comes to the well, to meet the sinful Samaritan woman and take her as His Bride, make her a member of His holy Church. 
            And that is what He does for you.  It is an astonishing thing that Jesus would want to hang out with a sinner like you, take you to Himself, and make you His own.  But He does.  That is His mercy.  That is His love.  He meets you at the well.  He drowns you in Baptism.  He drowns your sinful flesh by the preaching of His Law.  He does not let you go on living the lie… you know, that you’re basically a good person.  He does not let you go on destroying yourself and others in unrepentant sin.  He makes you confront the fact that you are a poor, miserable sinner.  He brings your sin out in the open where it can be dealt with by the forgiveness of sins, by the application of His precious blood which atones for your sin.  And He raises you up out of the water to new life, His resurrection life, the Christian life, the Baptismal life of repentance and faith, death and resurrection, a life in Christ who was crucified for your sins and has been raised from the dead, from whom your whole life flows.  He meets you at the well.  He takes you for Himself.  He makes you a member of His holy Bride, the Church.  St. Paul describes the love of Christ for His Bride this way: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27).  What is true for the Church is true for you.  Christ loved you and gave Himself up for you, that He might sanctify you, having cleansed you by the washing of water with the word (which is to say, Baptism), so that He might present you to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that you might be holy and without blemish, sins washed away, robed in the righteousness of the Savior, crowned with His glory, radiant with His holiness.

            Christ fashions a Bride for Himself from His riven side.  Sleeping the deep sleep of death on the cross, the side of our new Adam is opened by a spear, and out pour water and blood.  The water from His side fills the font.  The blood from His side fills the chalice.  And the Church comes to life.  And here we understand that Jesus Himself is the well from which we receive this living water.  He is the Rock Moses struck in our Old Testament reading (Ex. 17:1-7), from which water flowed for God’s people.  St. Paul comments on this very account: “all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4).  Our Rock was struck on the cross.  Our Adam’s side was riven on the tree.  And out poured water and blood.  “For there are three that testify,” St. John writes: “the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree” (1 John 5:7).  These flow from the well that is Christ.  His living Word through which the Spirit testifies, the water of Holy Baptism, the Blood poured out for you on the cross and poured down your throat in the Sacrament.  Jesus meets you at the well.  Jesus is the well.  And in Him a marriage is made.  You are His and He is yours.  And because you belong to Him, you will never have to thirst again.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.               


Anonymous Derrick said...

Brilliant and beautiful sacramental preaching, thanks so much. I found your translation of verse 26 very interesting - I've not encountered that before. It certainly makes the messianic and divine claim much starker than the NIV.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Pastor Krenz said...

Thank you, Derrick. God be with you.

7:58 AM  

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