Mar 19, 2017 Living Water!
There’s nothing quite as refreshing as water is there? Life is sustained by water. To be eternally refreshed is a longing for all of us, much like the woman in the gospel lesson today, and also like the Jews in the Old Testament lesson.
But unlike them, we can simply go to the tap and draw all the water we need, we don’t need to tap a rock for water as Moses did by the instructions and power of God. No, God has graciously given most people, water in abundance in our own homes. And that’s important because as we all know, water equals life. Now I’m having bottled water handed out to you, but you can’t open yet. Hold on to it, but don’t drink it till I tell you.
Part of the reason to wait, is for us to take a few moments while we want to drink that water, and consider what it was like for those thirsty Jews, wandering in the wilderness who had no easy access to water.
And yet we’re told that they were traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. So, a question might be, why did the Lord lead them to a place with no water? Perhaps part of the answer is in the last line of the lesson. There the Israelites, we’re told, grumbled against God and tested Him by asking, is the Lord among us or not?
And the answer is, of course, from our perspective after the fact, that He is. We’re told in the epistle lesson today, And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. But those in wilderness were still enduring the perseverance that would bring them to that trust. So, they needed to understand that God was with them through the leading of Moses. It was Moses who obeyed God and tapped the rock with the staff and God brought forth water for them, where before they had no water.
And it was flowing, living water that God gave them through the obedience of Moses. In this way God answered their grumbling, complaining, and questioning. And also, showing us again, that He supplies all that is needed for life. They were taught in this way, yet again, to depend on God and His grace, for all things needful. Their experience of God’s grace teaches us that same lesson of dependence upon God and His leading.
Going now back to the gospel lesson and the woman at the well – one thing must be clearly understood when talking about this woman – she would be known, now, as an ‘easy’ woman. There are others terms that could be applied, but suffice it to say, she was ‘well known’. And she was ashamed of it. How we know that is by the description of when she comes to the well to get water.
It says it was “about the sixth hour” when she came to the well. It also indicates that she came alone because it says she was “a Samaritan woman”. Going to the well in the sixth hour and alone, these things along with the conversation she has with Jesus all indicate her ‘status’ in the community. The sixth hour was noon, the hot part of the day, and not the time of day when a woman would normally do the heavy work of carrying water home. That was traditionally done in the morning and the evening, the cooler parts of the day. Also, going out to the well was a community thing. The women would gather there, much like we gather around the water cooler at work to share time with others.
All of this indicates that she was either shunned by the other women or embarrassed to see them. So, she came at loneliest part of the day, trying hard to avoid having to see others. But today she can’t avoid the Jewish man sitting near the well.
And as she talks with Jesus, He makes her an offer she wouldn’t want to refuse. He offers to give her water that will quench her thirst, eternally. She missed the fact that Jesus was not referring to just water or even to the water down in this well of Jacob.
He was making a reference to water from God that flows, that moves, that’s alive, like river water, and like the supernatural water given to the wandering Jews in the Old Testament. It’s the water of eternal life Jesus is talking about.
She was so wrapped up in trying to get daily water without having to come to the well, that she missed His meaning, as probably any of us would’ve. And of course, in the context of the conversation the larger meaning of Living Water – of that refreshment of God’s forgiveness that all people need – which comes because of the gift of God, that will later become clear to her.
Living water is moving water, its water that flows through us. Jesus’ life flows through us beginning with faith. For most of us, that began with the waters of our baptism. Living water, like living faith is moving and active. Faith that’s not moving is dead, like stagnate water. A dead faith is no faith. It gives nothing because it receives nothing. There’s no flow in or out. We all know what it’s to turn from faith in God and grumble at Him like the wandering Jews in the desert. And like them we too have seen only death around us.
In the early days of the American effort to build the Panama Canal many then also saw only death around them. And much of that death came from stagnate water. That’s because stagnate water in that climate breeds mosquitoes.
And the mosquitoes there at the time carried yellow fever. There were literally thousands of workers that died of this dreaded disease. But through the work of Dr. Gorgas, yellow fever was eradicated mainly by eliminating the standing water that was kept in homes, in planters and in the canal area. It took, more than $2 million in 1908 dollars to do, but by eliminating that one disease, through eliminating the standing water, the canal work would be successful. The irony is that while standing water brought death in the Canal Zone, it is moving, living water that makes the canal operate.
The flowing water of the Chargres River is what makes the canal work. Without that supply of flowing water the ‘water-bridge’ that the canal is, would never work. That water is what lifts you up, fills the lake that you cross and then gently lowers you back down to sea level so you can continue your journey: All by controlling the flow of moving water. There’s power in living water.
And that is what Jesus was trying to get the woman at the well – and you and I – to understand. The power of the living water of God. Another place in the Old Testament that makes this clear is in Zech 14:8. That verse says: Behold, a day is coming for the Lord… On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem.
So, living water is what’s promised to flow from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth in the day of Lord. That’s a reference to the cleansing flood of the mercy of God for the whole earth. And that comes from the work of this Man at the well talking to this Samaritan woman. His work on the cross, where, as He died as the substitute for all of sinful mankind, blood and water indeed flowed from His side and became a cleansing flood that accomplished God’s life-giving will. Like Moses tapping the rock, Jesus was obedient to the will of God in heaven.
We know that water has many properties. It can cleanse and refresh. That’s what the woman at the well came for. So now, you can open your water bottles and drink. Water can heal and give life. Again, that’s what Jesus, the Man at the well, does for us through His death and resurrection.
The water of baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ is what cleanses us. That cleansing is what causes us to worship in spirit and in truth as Jesus makes clear to the Samaritan woman. Without that purifying flood, from which we receive the Holy Spirit, we would never be prepared to worship as Jesus said. The Holy Spirit is the one who testifies to us of the truth of Jesus being the Son of God, our savior.
Our hearts have been made clean for us by His power, not by any doing on our part. We need not try and ‘fill our buckets’ on our own. We could never gather enough water by ourselves to wash away the stain of our sin on our own. Such cleansing and refreshing is God’s gift to us in His Son. Listen again to what Jesus says to the woman, “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”
It’s His gift alone that supplies the power of the cleansing flood of baptism to forever remove all stain of sin. Living now in the repentance prompted in us by the Holy Spirit, we are daily made new. By the Holy Spirit coming into us at baptism, the cleansing of Jesus death and the empty grave is made ours. That resurrection power is what gives the waters of baptism their power to cleanse us and refresh us forever in the freedom of Christ’s power over death.
And that now has set us free… free to truly worship God. Like living water that flows, His grace and mercy are poured into us by His Word and Spirit and through the sacraments. And we are set free to serve God, free to serve others with good works and along with that, give them the good news that He has poured into us. That by His living water we are refreshed forever. In Jesus name, amen.
Sermon #877 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Old Testament Reading Exodus 17:1-7
1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
5 The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”
Epistle Reading Romans 5:1-8
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Holy Gospel John 4:5-26
1 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 When 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.)
9 The 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.)
10 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.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are 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?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.”
15 The 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.”
16 He 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. 18 The 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. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”