Thirst No More (John 4:5-26)
Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation on this third Sunday of the Lententide is from our Gospel text, where John records Jesus’ response to the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends …

Next to air, there’s nothing our bodies physically need more than water. You can survive for about three weeks without food, but it’s rare that someone survives beyond five days without fresh water to drink. There’s a reason why ancient civilizations were established and expanded around sources of fresh, flowing water. There’s a reason why it means so much for villages in less developed countries to dig wells. And there’s certainly a reason why the Israelites got so cantankerous when they didn’t have any water. Of course, after Moses struck the rock and God caused water to come bursting forth, the people drank their fill … but they would thirst again. Such is the nature of our relationship with water. We need it, and consequently, we thirst. Even when we drink water and our thirst is slaked, soon after, we become thirsty again. Our bodies need, and at times crave, water. Heck, at the time I was writing this, I was nearly through guzzling down one Tervis full of sweet, icy-cold water. Without water, we die a parched, miserable, thirsty death.

Enter our Gospel text. It’s late in the day. Jesus and His disciples are on their way to Galilee, and they’re going through Samaria – an interesting decision in and of itself, but for a different sermon. They stop off in a village called Sychar, and the disciples go off to get some food. Jesus … stays behind, sitting alone at Jacob’s well. He’s tired and, wouldn’t you know it, He’s thirsty, demonstrating His true human nature. A local woman comes up to the well to draw up some water, and Jesus … commands her to give Him a drink of water. 

She’s thrown for a loop, not because she thinks Him rude, but rather because He’s a Jew, and she’s a Samaritan. These two groups had little in common by this time and avoiding any associations with one another if it could be helped. Really, according to social convention, Jesus shouldn’t even be talking with her, much less commanding her to do something for Him! She asks, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” Jesus answers, “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.”

In the chapter prior to our text, the Gospel we heard last week, we heard a well-known interaction between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus. There, too, Jesus mentions water, specifically being “born of water and the Spirit.” Unless one is born in this way, of this very living water and of the Spirit, one cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus describes this living water in our text today as becoming “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” in the one who partakes of it. What He’s offering is water that sustains, water that quenches thirst indefinitely. Understandably, this claim seems fantastical, too good to be true, so the woman asks Jesus for this amazingly special water so, you know, she’d never have to come all the way to the well and drag her full jars all the way back home. Her misunderstanding of Jesus’ words aside, she’s certainly eager to receive this living water. And Jesus, for His part, is only too eager to give it to her!

But how could He do that? Why would He do that? Doesn’t He know what she is? This Samaritan woman … is a SINNER, an adulteress! What she deserves is only death and damnation for her adultery, let alone all her other sins. She is entirely unworthy of this life-giving water that Jesus is offering! So, why should He offer such an incredible gift to this Jezebel?

Well, make no mistake: Jesus knows her situation. He knows she’s an adulteress, having been married five times (though we’re not told much beyond that). He knows that the fellow that she’s living with right now is not actually her husband. He knows that she’s a sinner, just like the Hebrews at Massah and Meribah, just like Paul and the Romans that he wrote to, just like you and me and all humanity. We are all sinners, thirsting, and dying. None of us deserve this life-giving living water, but as Paul wrote to the Romans, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Our unworthiness notwithstanding, we all need the living water. Jesus knows this, and He is more than happy to give it to us, just as He did with the Samaritan woman.

We don’t know much about her situation after her interaction with Jesus. We are told that the village of Sychar no longer needs to simply rely on the woman’s testimony about Jesus. They themselves freely confesses that “we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” This Living Water, this Living Word, is Jesus of Nazareth, who bids those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness to come to Him. THIS is the Living Water, the gift of God, the grace bestowed upon us in the waters of holy baptism, where we are made participants in Jesus’ death and resurrection. In spite of the sins of the Samaritan woman – certainly in spite of the sins we commit day in and day out – Jesus, the living water, give of Himself for us to drink. 

Simply put, neither the Samaritan woman, nor any people in her village, nor the disciples, nor prophets, nor anyone else in all creation deserves anything beyond death and hell. However, we also have the promise of Christ that, in giving to us of Himself, that living water becomes in us “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” We have been brought to the Living Waters; we have drunk of Him, and now we await that blessed Day when we will have eternal life in full, when our faith becomes sight. That will be the Day when, in the presence of the Wellspring of Life, we will thirst no more. 

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.