Scripture: Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-30
Title: Completely Quenchable
***sermons are meant to be heard, so listen along here****
Last week, and in sermons prior to last week, Pr Chad has repeated a refrain that I want to lift up again this morning. Details matter.
There is a lot to this morning’s text, perhaps because it is one of the longest lectionary selections of the year. And I didn’t even read everything that was suggested. So in our rush to get to the “important points” we often miss some of the ones that matter.
So before we get to it, I want to take a few moments in the details.
Because they matter.
They give us clues to why what happens next is significant.
First, we’re in John’s Gospel as we head through Lent this year, and as we spend some time here, I want to remind you that first and foremost, John’s Gospel consistently points us to the importance of the connections between us and God. John’s Gospel is at it’s very core about relationship.
This detail matters as we hear this story of Jesus and the woman at the well today.
This text takes place in Samaria.
This is important because Samaritans were people with whom the Jews had no contact. They had irreconcilable differences when it came to their faith, (over where the placement of the temple should be actually) and they had long since parted ways. In fact, verse 9 says that Jews and Samaritans shared nothing. Yikes.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and in verse 4 (one earlier than we heard from today) it says that Jesus told the disciples they had to go through Samaria.
So they detoured a bit. Into a land where they considered the people there enemies.
They get tired, Jesus sits at a well to rest while the disciples go into town to buy food and a woman comes to draw water from the well.
Details matter – Verse 6: Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well, it was about noon.
Noon is the heat of the day.
It is not when the average person comes to get water.
The community gathers around the well in the morning, collecting enough water for the day, and if they run out, the don’t return until the evening.
So this woman showing up to get water at noon tells us something about her.
She isn’t a part of the community.
For one reason or another, she has been ostracized and placed on the outside.
In a Gospel primarily concerned about relationship, Jesus, sitting alone at a well in what many would consider enemy territory, strikes up a conversation with a woman who has been deemed unworthy by her own community.
The scene is set.
Verse 7: A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
My inner (or not so inner) feminist has always pushed back at this verse.
My knee-jerk reaction is why can’t Jesus get his own darn drink of water?
And then because I don’t think Jesus is a bad guy, I wondered if maybe there was some rule against men fetching water?
But no. Wrong again.
As was pointed out to me this week at a study of this text, it’s pretty simple – Jesus just didn’t have a bucket, and this lady did.
And instead of Jesus being a jerk, it actually makes him way more human.
It’s actually vulnerable of him to ask for something he needs in this moment.
He’s the son of God and yet experiencing a really human condition of being thirsty on a hot day after a long walk.
And this woman has something he needs.
And you know what? He has something in return.
Verse 10: 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.”
He has living water.
And when she hears it, she doesn’t ask more questions about how it’s possible or what is happening, like Jesus had just experienced with Nicodemus.
Verse 15: The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
He offers her what he has and she says, yes.
I want that.
She might not fully understand what it means, but she wants it.
Then Jesus continues:
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, “I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.
Again, first glance here can make Jesus seem a little harsh. He asks a question of her he obviously knows the answer to and it isn’t initially clear why.
But, since we know that Jesus is not a jerk, a little digging tells us a lot in these three verses.
She has no husband. In fact, Jesus says she’s had 5.
What does this mean exactly? Details matter, right?
A lot of times this has been incorrectly interpreted to mean that she has somehow been caught in adultery many times.
But many scholars now agree that she was likely divorced for being unable to produce children, and most recently widowed. They believe this because her presence at the well in the midday is an indication that her inability to bear children has placed her outside of polite society, and when Jesus says “the one you have now is not your husband” many scholars take it to mean the brother of her recently deceased husband is required by law to marry her. This was for her protection, primarily, but also to keep the family name alive and well.
So Jesus has just exposed the lack of control this woman has had over her own life, and her deepest and most painful parts of her life.
He just puts it out there.
Can you imagine?
And then she responds: you are a prophet.
Not because he’s magic, but because this is what people believed prophets did.
Prophets exposed painful truths to the world.
Then, the woman asks this great question – he’s a Jewish man, one who she believes is a prophet, and she asks him the question that is the reason the Jews and Samaritans have divided in the first place – over where to worship.
Verse 20: Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.
Oh man, it’s like Jesus can hardly contain himself at this point.
You can almost see him rubbing his hands together and say “NOW WE’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE”
He says, lady you have NO idea.
Pretty soon it won’t even matter where the temple is located.
She tells him that the prophets have talked about the coming Messiah, and that when the Messiah comes he will be the one to proclaim everything to them.
Verse 26: Jesus said to her, “I am, the one who is speaking to you.”
We need to pause the narrative flow that we’ve got going to appreciate the significance of this moment. Because again, details matter.
When the Greek scriptures translate the Hebrew name for God (yahweh) it is Ego Eimi.
So when Moses hears the burning bush tell him my name is Yahweh – I AM.
In Greek that is Ego Eimi.
Jesus is saying I AM.
She knew what he was saying.
She knew what it meant.
And it was a BIG DEAL.
Also, as long as we’re stopped here, I’d like to make a note that the first person, outside of John the Baptist and his mother that know who Jesus really is, is this Samaritan woman.
He hasn’t even said who he is to the disciples.
John told them to follow and they did. Jesus, at least at this point, hasn’t told them he’s the guy, he’s the one they’ve been waiting for, he hasn’t said EGO EIMI.
The first time he makes this absolutely clear statement of who he is, I AM, is to a Samaritan woman.
To me, this, and the entire story actually, is a reminder that Jesus is never where you expect him to be, interacting with the exact opposite of the ones you’d think he’d be with, and saying things you’d never imagine he’d say.
After Jesus tells her who he is, she runs to the city, and tells everyone about Jesus.
Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
Come and see, she says.
To the people – the very ones in town who have left her on the outside and deemed her unworthy, she says come and see.
She’s the first evangelist.
This woman. This Samaritan woman.
She’s the first one who comes face to face with Jesus and can’t keep it to herself.
My favorite part of this whole story is verse 29:
Come and see this guy who told me everything I have ever done.
Notice how she doesn’t say I met this guy and he fixed all my problems.
She doesn’t say, I met Jesus and now my life is perfect.
She says come and see this man who told me everything I have ever done.
He knew me.
HE KNEW ME.
The good and the bad.
The parts that are out in the open and the parts that are kept hidden.
The things that are a source of pride and things that are full of shame.
HE KNEW ME.
And then, as if she knew people wouldn’t maybe believe her if she just said it, she asked a question – he couldn’t possibly be the Messiah, could he?
You should probably go look.
And they did.
We’re here because people kept on going to take a look.
And they kept coming to listen to what Jesus had to say.
You’re here this morning because at some point in your life, you came to take a look.
And it is here that we too are fully aware of all the things we’re hiding that cause us guilt and shame.
And still we hear – Come and See.
This is what Jesus is talking about.
This living water, this life that can’t be covered by sin and guilt and shame.
It’s new life.
And it’s ours.
Because he knows you.
He knows you.
And holds out that living water FOR YOU too.
We have received the living water.
We don’t have to be thirsty anymore.
Come and see.