More Than Water

Text: John 4:5-26
Date: Lent III + 3/23/14

Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord. When you began the Lenten process of becoming a Christian you heard as of first importance that you would be entering a spiritual battle. We heard our Lord’s temptation by the devil in the wilderness. There you learned that you are given the same mighty weapons Jesus used in His defeat of Satan, namely, the Word of God and the Spirit of God.

Last Sunday you discovered that to be a Christian means that you must be born again. Unlike Nicodemus who was thoroughly confused about this we have pointed you to the sacrament of Holy Baptism wherein God brings you to saving repentance of your sins and faith in Christ. This is being born of water and the Spirit.

Today we hear more about water and discover that it is not just any plain water. The water Jesus speaks of today certainly brings to mind your baptism, but it is more. He calls it “living water.” In the early Church this meant simply moving water, water that was alive, in motion as in a stream. Listen to how the earliest instruction on baptism reads. The Didache or “The Teaching” written as early as a.d. 70 or 90:

Now about baptism: this is how to baptize. Give public instruction on all these points, and then “baptize” in living water, (saying) “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” If you do not have running (or living) water, baptize in some other. If you cannot in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, then pour water on the head three times “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”[1]

Jesus was on His way from Judea to Galilee because of the hostility of the Pharisees. Though it was possible to avoid the main road as many did since it ran through Samaria, Jesus chose otherwise. (So does Jesus “go out of His way” to find you!) Salvation began with the promise to Abraham and comes through God’s promise to the Jews. But as God told Abraham, God’s salvation is ultimately for all the nations of the earth, through the Jews. By Jesus going through this country of half-breeds we are reminded of His goal.

He comes to a woman by a well. Though we are told a few things about this woman St. John paints her with as little personality as possible because the Evangelist wants you to see yourself in her. And what do we see?

Jesus begins the conversation, saying, “Give me a drink.” So Jesus has begun the conversation with you. Somehow, somewhere you have heard His voice speaking to you. You may not have even known it was His voice. Like the woman you may not have an idea why He is speaking to you, even finding objections to entering into the conversation. “‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)” “Certainly,” we may object, “God is not interested in me because I’m a sinner.” This brings up the question, “What sort of prejudices or false assumptions tend to keep you distant or away from God?”

Notice Jesus doesn’t answer her question, “Why me?” Rather He introduces what she needs to discover, namely, who He is. “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.” So do not doubt that Jesus desires to come to you and speak to you. But now, other than the instruction on how to baptize, what does He mean by living water?

He says, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Unlike the Samaritan woman we know Jesus is not speaking only of well water, Absopure,® Aquafina,® or Zero Water.® So what is this “gift of God” He mentions?

Unlike water you drink to quench your physical thirst only to get thirsty again, Jesus’ water is a living, self-replenishing, eternal water coming not from a well or a bottle but from within you! It is the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus who creates, replenishes, strengthens and sustains this thing we call “faith.” Faith is God’s work in you, always. Jesus is this gift of God for He is your source of life, all life, eternal life.

As with the rest of Jesus’ conversation with this woman, all we will say here is that through your continued listening to His Word you will be led to discover, with more and more spiritual understanding and conviction, that Jesus is the very Son of God. Therefore in these days leading up to your baptism but also in all the days following leading up to your resurrection, you need to constantly be hearing Jesus. It is as we sang in the hymn today, “I heard the voice.” As we gather in the place He has promised to be for us, in His Word and Sacrament, in the fellowship of His Body, the Church, you can say:

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one,
Stoop down and drink and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him. (LSB 699:2)

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20). That’s the goal, the goal of our instruction in the catechumenate, the goal of Lent, the goal of baptism, the goal of the life of faith. The gift of God is Jesus, Jesus for you, Jesus in you.

This woman brought her friends to Jesus, saying, “Come, see the man who told me everything I ever did.” And many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony (John 4:39). When you join the ranks of the baptized you enter into God’s presence always in the remembrance of your Holy Baptism, “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Then, having received the living water of God’s Word and Spirit you go back into the world inviting everyone else to come, “see the man who told me everything I ever did,” “come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

[1] Cyril C. Richardson, ed., Early Christian Fathers, The Macmillan Company ©1970, p. 174.