“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.'” John 4:10, NRSV
Last Sunday our Gospel reading from John chapter three was a conversation about water and the Spirit between Jesus and Nicodemus. That theme of water rises again in today’s Gospel reading from John chapter four with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and Jesus having a conversation about “living water.”
The story began with Jesus resting by Jacob’s well in the Samaritan city of Sychar. Jesus needed to quench his thirst so he asked the Samaritan woman who came to draw water from the well for a drink. She was shocked because Jews and Samaritans had nothing to do with each other for centuries.
So Jesus crossed a social boundary. He asked a Samaritan woman for a drink to quench his thirst because he was tired and thirsty from his journey and the hot sun at noon was beating down on him.
So, too, in our country in past decades social boundaries have been a challenge. Would racism be overcome? Would inequality of pay for women in the workplace be overcome? Would the mistreatment of the LGBTQI communities be overcome?
The conversation between the Samaritan woman and Jesus at Jacob’s well then turned to that theme of water. the Samaritan woman didn’t understand the gift of “living water” that Jesus offered to her. She thought of deep well water to quench Jesus’ thirst, but Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water (well water) will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (vs. 13 – 14)
The woman at the well became so excited that she called out to Jesus, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” (vs.15) The woman truly desired Jesus’ gift of water, but didn’t quite understand what this “living water for eternal life” was all about. She was still thinking about good old H2O with some kind of power to forever quench her physical thirst, but Jesus offered water of the spiritual kind to quench the soul when it was dry and longing for some deep spiritual refreshment.
In my much younger days there were taverns on almost every corner in our neighborhood. It was a place for families to meet and have a good time sharing stories from the past week while having some alcoholic beverages (beer). The bartender would always ask, “What would you like to drink?” And since these bars were within a mile of Anheuser-Busch brewery, the answer was always “Busch” or “Bud.”
But as I became older and life became harder with struggles and suffering surrounding me, the answer to “what would you like to drink” quickly and dramatically changed. It changed from the physical to the spiritual. My answer is now, “Jesus, give me that spiritual water. Give me a spiritual taste of that baptismal water which comforts and strengthens me.
But this was not the only time Jesus talked about drinking from the abundant life He offered. In chapter 7 of John’s Gospel, Jesus and his disciples were at the Jewish Festival of Booths and the Pharisees and chief priests sent Temple police to arrest him. In the midst of this chaos, Jesus cried out to those who gathered around him, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.”
How do we drink of this living water today? In Holy Baptism as water is poured and God’s Word is spoken, we receive this living water, this water which cleanses us from all sin and makes us a member of the body of Christ. Each day we can remember our baptism in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, confess our sins, rely on God’s promise of forgiveness, and be raised up to newness of life. Our lives are made new, refreshed, and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to start life over again and be bold witnesses for Christ.
Talking about being a bold witness for Christ, the Samaritan woman was just that. Jesus told her many things about her life and that He was the Messiah. She was so amazed that she left her water jar at the well, went back to her city and told the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” (vs. 29)
She invited the people to “come and see.” With that simple yet stirring invitation, the people went to the well and found Jesus, listened to him, and believed in him. They believed in Jesus as the Messiah not only because of what she told them, but because they also heard from Jesus for themselves.
Isn’t that what living water from Jesus can do? Isn’t living water so stirring in our minds, our hearts, and our souls that we cannot keep this good news to ourselves?
When I was re-developing a congregation in Birmingham, Alabama, I went door to door inviting people to worship services at this church. I can only remember one time that I had the door “slammed in my face” so to speak while hundreds of other families listened to my invitation. I will never know the results of those hundreds of invitations, but I pray that with the help of the Holy Spirit those who listened will come to the Christ who offers new life with that living water.
So taste and drink of this gift of living water! Have your soul’s thirst be refreshed! Then go with the strength of the Holy Spirit to tell the story of Jesus’ love!
Thanks be to God!