Sunday Mar 15, 2020 – Third Sunday in Lent
John 4:5-42 Sermon: Drink from this well
Carmen Retzlaff, New Life Lutheran Church, Dripping Springs, Texas
5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 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.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.” 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.”
16 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. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 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?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
Note of gratitude: “What fills your well?” exercise borrowed (adapted) from a message delivered by Rev. Lisa Hoelscher, Zion Lutheran Church, Fredricksburg.
The Samaritan woman’s well is empty. Not the physical well at which she meets Jesus, but her deep inside, soul well. She’s coming to the well, alone, at midday. It is hot, and she has missed the social time when others will be there to draw water. So maybe she’s avoiding others. Or maybe she’s an outcast. Already. And then she has to encounter a man, by himself. So that will potentially sully her reputation, which we will soon learn is already probably not so squeaky clean. And he doesn’t just avert his eyes and let her get her water. He talks to her. And he’s a Jew.
Jew’s hated Samaritans. Samaritans, I am sure were not big fans of Jews either. Samaria was between Galilee and Jerusalem, but Jews took another route, a slightly longer way, to avoid going there. Once they had all been related, but now Jews felt that the Samaritan people and their religion were polluted - they were not the chosen people and they didn’t worship God correctly. Samaritans believed they could worship on their holy mountain, and that they did in fact worship the one true God, but knew that Jews thought them wrong.
Why is this man sitting there alone? Why is he there at all? The text says Jesus had to go through Samaria, and many commentaries say that is not about time or geography, but about who Jesus is. He had to go to the margins. To the despised. This woman will become one of the first bearers of the good news, an apostle. This Samaritan woman. The lowest of the low is who Jesus finds, talks to, knows, and tells the news that he is the Messiah.
She has come to the well empty. And found that this man knows her. He knows her shame, that she has had many husbands. Most likely she is a widow, passed from brother to brother. Who knows what her situation with the man she lives with is now. Not good. Sounds like she’s had a hard life, and was having a hard day and went to the well in the heat, alone.
Only to find there one who knew her already. Who engaged her in conversation. Who told her who he really was, too. And she went back to her community, forgetting the water jug, to tell others. And they came back with her. And the outsider is now part of the community again. She left the jug. The real water, the living water, was Jesus, who knew her, talked to her, shared with her, restored her to her community, and promised salvation for all, even Samaritans, the whole wide world.
*What fills you up? What delights you like a long cold drink of water on a hot day? I’m going to give you a minute to think about that. What fills your well? What song? What person? What place - even if you can only go there in your mind? What happens that pulls you back to life and joy? What food? What smell even? Think quietly for one minute - I’ll time us.
Now, turn to some one near you and tell them, if you want to share, what was your thought? What fills your well?
- 1 minute - *
In Lent we enter times of desert intentionally. Or we might just already be there, facing uncertainty, facing fears, facing loneliness or loss. And when we think of that thing that gives us joy, that fills our cup, it is like water from a deep, cool well. And that is what Jesus gives to the Samaritan woman. That is what Jesus means—so much more than that—when he says he is the living water. And when you drink it you will never thirst. That is Easter, the promise at the end of Lent, the well in the desert. Jesus will find us, Love himself will find us, even when we go out of our way to avoid love. And he will know who we really are and what we really need. And we will lift that cup of love and knowing to our parched lips and drink deeply and live.
*This portion adapted from message from Lisa Hoelscher to Hill Country Deanery 3/11/2020, Zion Lutheran Church, Fredricksburg, used with permission and gratitude
Children’s Bible study lesson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlFho5BRyEc&fbclid=IwAR1LXomq8EB7XULVtbM_xD6Mg-x-HTy1rIFJcmup7Oyoc6p-5fg1ybUy9Og
Adult Bible study lesson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R-rL3-AgdI