LENT 3, A – March 19, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Ps. 84; Exodus 17:1-7; Romans 5:1-8; John 4:5-39

     Jesus answered her, “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)


What are you thirsting for? That is the question Jesus puts before us today. There are many things for which we thirst.

Ø  An end to winter, with its cold and snow! Many of us thirst for this; and our thirst will be satisfied. Be patient. Spring will come, as it always does; and then summer… and fall… and another winter.

Ø  Are you thirsting for a faithful spouse and a good family? The Samaritan woman Jesus speaks with, who had had five husbands and was currently living with a man to whom she was not married – she’d be right at home in our society. We have plenty of people who have been married more than once, and people who are living together without being married. This marital unfaithfulness has not been a blessing, but has harmed our society. Do you want better? Do you desire a faithful spouse? Start by being one yourself!

Ø  Are you thirsting for an end to divisions due to race and ethnicity? “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” – this is how it was in Jesus’ day. If you thirst for an end to such divisions, which have always been around, then start by ending them in your own life. Welcome others as Jesus did. Offer your help to those who are looked down upon, as He did. Be one who unites and does not divide.

Ø  Are you thirsting for the certainty that your physical needs will be met? “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,” Jesus told the woman. If even He, the very Son of God, was exhausted and thirsted in this life, you can be sure that you also will have times when your needs will not be met.

We thirst for many things; but, our greatest thirst should be for God and for life with Him. All other things pass away. Only God will remain. He is the source of living water, Jesus says, of “water welling up to eternal life.” Jesus connects His living water to worship. Worship is drinking, going to God and receiving Him as the source of life. Do you think of it this way? You must learn to do so.

The Samaritan woman Jesus spoke with had a big problem: she was drinking from the wrong source. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews,” Jesus told her. He connects the true God and true worship with a source that she has rejected. We also fall into looking to the wrong source. We hear Jesus’ say, “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth,” and we internalize this. “Ah, Jesus means that true worship must be spiritual. It must move your spirit and be from your heart. It must be sincere and meaningful and heartfelt.” That sounds right, doesn’t it? Surely the worship of God must come from your heart and not be just words and responses that are so well-known that they are automatic!

You condemn yourself with this thinking, this belief! For out of our hearts come great evils along with great good – even the good of worship. Be honest:

Ø  While joyfully singing a hymn, you’ve seen one who is not singing as well, or perhaps is not even singing at all, and questioned that person’s sincerity and heart.

Ø  While confessing with others the one faith you share in the one God, you’ve doubted in your heart the sincerity of another’s confession.

The suspicion and judgmentalism that divided Jews and Samaritans in Jesus’ day lives in our hearts to this day. If true worshipers are those who worship the Father with true and sincere hearts, then no such worshipers will be found, even among us Lutherans. Our hearts are not wholly true and sincere, but are corrupted by sinful judgmentalism, and doubts, and even simple distractedness!

Are you dry and thirsty now? We need a different water, far different from that which flows from our hearts. We need “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jesus gives that water.

To understand what Jesus was saying to the Samaritan woman and where He is focusing our attention, let’s start with what He first said to her: “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.” What is the “gift of God” He is referring to? He told us last Sunday. We heard it in the words that precede this story in John 4. John 3, the story of Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus, is in the background of today’s Gospel. In John 3:16 we heard: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.” The gift of God is Jesus Himself! He is the source of the living water we need.

And what is that water? Again, in John 3 Jesus told Nicodemus of water that gives life. “Unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God,” He said (John 3:5). The water of life is the water that is connected with the Holy Spirit. This is the water of Holy Baptism, for Jesus came to baptize with the Holy Spirit, as John the Baptist said: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’” (John 1:32-33).

But, what about what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, that “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth”? The word “spirit” is not capitalized. Jesus is referring to our spirit, then, and not the Holy Spirit, right? Keep in mind that you are reading an English translation of the Bible. The original Greek did not differentiate between a small or a capital “s.” What you have in English was an editor’s decision. So, then: is there any way of knowing whether Jesus meant your spirit – a small “s” – or the Holy Spirit – a capital “S”? Well, listen again to what Jesus said: “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” “God is Spirit,” He says. The “worship in Spirit” that He refers to, then, is worship in God. God’s Spirit within you, given to you in your baptism, joins you to Jesus and prompts your worship of the Father. He continually washes you clean in Him and purifies your worship so that it is true. God’s Spirit is a living water who is flowing within you, continually cleansing you in the forgiving blood of Jesus! This is the gift you have in your Baptism in the Triune God.

Drink deeply of your Baptism! It is from the One who, when His hour had come, bore your sins in His own flesh and “died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5). In this God shows His love for you, and by this death for you Jesus became the forgiveness and holiness with which His Holy Spirit constantly washes and cleanses you.

This took place before your eyes today. Keep your own baptism before your eyes constantly by rejoicing in it and thanking God for it! Drink deeply of that living water, the Holy Spirit with which Jesus filled you in your baptism. You will know that Jesus is not only the Savior of the world; you will know Him as your Savior, your eternal peace with God. In His holy name. Amen.