Water Gives You Life (Genesis 7:11–23, 1 Peter 3:17-22, & John 3:1-8)
Rev. David French

Next to the air we breathe, water is the primary element in God’s creation. Without fresh water, your body cannot survive. Water comes in all shapes and sizes, depending on its use and temperature. When water is frozen, it is solid. We put ice in many beverages, and snow falls on the mountains. When water is above freezing, it is a liquid. We drink it, shower with it, bathe with it, and wash our clothes and dishes with it. Water is everywhere in our lives.

Water is also powerful and destructive. At creation, God separated the waters above from the waters below to make land before He made Adam and Eve. Then, God told Noah that He would flood the entire earth until the highest mountain was twenty feet below the surface of the water. God destroyed it all because of the wickedness of man, but He made a covenant a promise to save Noah and his family. After Moses and all the people of Israel crossed with “unmoistened foot” (LSB 487:1), God delivered a deadly blow to Egypt’s army. The walls of the Red Sea literally slammed shut, crushing and drowning the entire Egyptian army.

Water circulates often in the Scriptures in large and small ways. Sometimes there is flooding, washing, watering, healing, refreshing, cleansing, and reshaping. Under Joshua, God led Israel into the Promised Land when He parted the Jordan River. Then, in the days of the kings, Elisha healed Naaman, a Syrian army commander, from leprosy by asking him to dip and wash in the Jordan River seven times. When Israel was thirsty, Moses sweetened the bitter waters of Marah and made water flow from a hard rock. God always refreshes His people, as the psalmist prays, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1–2). Isaiah even invited God’s people to be refreshed: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. … Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).

In the New Testament, Jesus launched His ministry in water at His Baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Just as Israel had crossed it long ago under the hand of their helper and savior, Joshua, to enter the Promised Land, so Jesus enters the Jordan to baptize you and give you the promised land of heaven. Even though Naaman, the Gentile leader, balked at Elisha’s word for healing, he eventually dipped himself into that same cleansing Jordan River seven times. He saw his leprosy evaporate.

Dear friends, Jesus still washes all your sins away today in the waters of your baptism, and Jesus gives you the promised land of heaven! Although Jesus had no sin, He immersed Himself in sin to fulfill in human flesh all that Israel and we never could. It’s no accident that water is splashed everywhere in Jesus’ ministry. In His first miracle, Jesus turns water into wine to refresh wedding guests (see John 2:1–12). Then, Jesus lovingly encourages Nicodemus to be born of water and the Spirit (see John 3:1–15). But to our utter astonishment, Jesus also offers living water to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (see John 4:1–45). When Jesus sees the lame, He heals a paralyzed man who had been waiting thirty-eight years to get into the pool of Bethesda (see John 5:1–17). Jesus, remembering how God gave the Israelites water in the wilderness, says to the crowd at the Feast of Tabernacles, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37). Jesus also walks on water and washes the disciples’ feet (see John 13:1–20). Finally, Jesus allows water and blood to pour forth from His side as He hangs on the cross (see John 19:34).

Is all this water simply coincidental? Absolutely not. Water is woven throughout the Bible, pointing you to Jesus. As St. Paul so wonderfully concludes in 1 Corinthians 10, “Our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. … For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (vv. 1–4). Even St. Peter states that “just as God saved Noah and his family by water, so your baptism now saves you” (see 1 Peter 3:18–22).

Dear friend in Christ, your heavenly Father reshapes and rewashes you every day with baptismal water, like a piece of moistened clay. He is conforming you into the image of His Son. Before the Scriptures were ever fully recorded for all God’s people to see and read, the Early Church Fathers used physical water to teach the Bible, baptism, and faith in Christ.

This is where you were once born and where you are joyfully reborn every day. Jesus is the vine who grafted you into Himself and His Church by water. In Him, you live, move, and have your being (see Acts 17:28). Just as your mother’s womb so beautifully protected you in water when God knitted you together so also, the Holy Spirit protects you in the womb of your new mother, the Holy Church. If you were to ask a potter how he makes a beautiful pottery vase, he would tell you it is the water that makes clay moldable before it is fired in the oven. Likewise, your potter, the heavenly Father, works in you by the Holy Spirit day by day to reshape your life into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Your old Adam has been drowned and a new you is a work in progress. Just as the Holy Spirit hovered over all the waters of creation to bring life, so He fills you with new life in Jesus now and every day!

During Lent, the church is dark and full of purple, reminding us of Christ’s Passion, death, and tomb. But we will not stay here. We will arise anew from our tomb this Easter. What needs to be drowned in you today? Does it affect your marriage, family, or relationships? Are you more like moldable clay to be reshaped by water or like hard pottery needing to be crushed? Jesus Christ was crucified with all of it. Your sin was nailed on His cross, His blood was shed for you, and He was buried with your sins! Jesus Christ—your vine, your rock, your shepherd—died so that you live in sin no longer. Go now, washed anew today, forgiven of all your sins! Fix your eyes on Jesus and be refreshed by the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Amen.