Bethel CRC Lacombe

February 18, 2024 Picture Jesus: The Living Water | John 4:1-15

February 20, 2024 Bethel CRC Season 2 Episode 1
Bethel CRC Lacombe
February 18, 2024 Picture Jesus: The Living Water | John 4:1-15
Show Notes Transcript

Today  is the first Sunday of Lent.  During the Lenten season, we will reflect on the pictures of who Jesus revealed in the Gospel of John, beginning with Picture Jesus: The Living Water, John 4:1-15. As Jesus travels with his disciples from Judea to Galilee, he encounters a Samaritan woman at a well during mid-day; an unusual time of the day for someone to come to the well. Jesus asks her if she would be willing to give him some water and during their discussion, Jesus offers her living water so she would never be thirsty again. Jesus asks us the same question still today, “Do you want my living water?” How do you answer him ?

The Living Water

John 4:1-15


It’s the first Sunday of Lent; through Lent we’re going to spend time on the Gospel of John looking at some of the images he gives us of who Jesus is. We’re beginning with this encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. Jesus has been in the area of Judea, close to the centers of both the political and religious power centered in Jerusalem. Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist is in prison, Jesus’ disciples are baptizing a whole lot of new disciples for Jesus, and Jesus realizes that it’s getting dangerous for him to stick around, so he heads back to his home province of Galilee in the north. To get there, Jesus needs to either travel around the province of Samaria which was between Judea and Galilee, or take the longer ways, which may people did; they would either go the Way of the Kings through the mountains in the east, or go by the Way of the Sea which was to the west along the Mediterranean Sea. Jesus decides to take the straighter, shorter route through Samaria. 

It’s about noon and Jesus is tired, so as they approach the village of Sychar, Jesus stops to rest by the local well while the disciples go into the village for food. Jesus meets this Samaritan woman who appears at this unusual time of day to get her water; a time when she would be alone and away from the gossip and scorn of the other women in town because of her life choices. When the woman shows up at the well, Jesus asks her, “Will you give me a drink?” The woman is shocked, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” John then tells us that Jews don’t associate with Samaritans. Samaritans weren’t fully Jews; their ancestors had married people who weren’t Jewish during the time when Israel was in exile. The Jewish people believed that the Samaritans were less than they were, even believing that they were unclean people religiously. Their religious purity demanded that Jews should not associate with Samaritans. This is why the woman is shocked that Jesus talks to her and then even asks her for water! 

As you get to know the story of Jesus, you see that Jesus treated Samaritans with respect, even making them the heroes of some of his parables. The Samaritans respond to Jesus’ grace by believing in him, and later, when Jesus heals 10 lepers, all Jewish except for one Samaritan, the only one who comes back to thank Jesus is the Samaritan. Now Jesus shocks her even more by offering her water, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Jesus is going deeply spiritual here, and she doesn’t understand right away, still wrapping her head around Jesus’ willingness to associate with her and even treat her with respect.

She answers Jesus by asking if he knows where he is, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” She’s referring to Genesis 33 when Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. Later on, Jacob gives this land to Joseph, “And to you I give one more ridge of land than to your brothers, the ridge I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.” The book of Joshua tells us the Jews took Joseph’s bones back to this plot of land after the Jews returned to the land of Israel after God freed them from slavery. This is a special place for both Samaritans and Jews, a place where both people and their flocks have been refreshed for generations. Jesus is using the history of this spring fed well to offer her a huge gift, one she is thirsting for even if she doesn’t quite understand it yet. This is fresh water is contrasted to a surface water well that will often dry up in times of drought. This why the Jews only consider running water, like in a spring fed well, or a stream, or river as living water, as pure water. 

Water is a recurring theme in the stories of the Bible because of its importance to life. Already at creation, the Garden of Eden is nourished by three great rivers flowing through it. Water refreshes, cleans, and is often used as a symbol of life, which is why it’s part of the symbolism of baptism. Israel identifies with the wilderness and the forty years they spent there due to their lack of trust in God’s strength and plan. Those years were filled with numerous stories of God providing them with water, even providing them with water that flowed out of rock; Deuteronomy 8, “He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock.” 

In John 7, Jesus is in the temple during the Festival of Sukkot, a time when the Jews gave thanks for a bountiful harvest, but also prayed for God to send water again the next year. Jesus uses the imagery when he stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” Jesus connects the picture of water to the Holy Spirit, the gift he sends at Pentecost. This is an image of Jesus’ generosity as he speaks of streams of living water flowing from us, the Holy Spirit filling us to overflowing!

God regularly uses our physical need to drink as a picture of spiritual need that only he, through the Holy Spirit, can fill. While working as a landscaper in Southern Ontario, there were times when we ran out of water during the day, often during the brutal heat of mid-afternoon. We would need to seek out shade and lie on the ground a moment to rest our bodies while one of us would take the truck to pick up some water. It’s always amazing how even a mouthful of water helped get us going again. It’s the same with our hearts, souls, and minds. Some people wrestle with anger, bitterness, or even a contrary spirit that flows out of pride which leads to spiritual thirst. When we drink out of Jesus’ living water by believing in him and putting this belief in action, it brings renewal, new life. It’s like those desert landscapes that can be so barren and then burst into bloom when the rain comes. In the same way, when we drink from Jesus’ living water, we experience transformation, new life, which leads to a deeper relationship of trust and faith in Jesus. 

There are times when we feel weakness, doubt, fear, anxiety, and sadness sapping away our strength, and many of us will struggle a long time before we realize we need help. There are other times when we thirst for meaning, purpose, acceptance, hope, or more. This is a form of thirst, a thirst that Jesus addresses when he invites us to come to him in Matthew 11, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

Where do you turn when your soul, heart, or mind is thirsty? What voices, people, or beliefs do you turn to for refreshment? There are a lot of voices promising you whatever you think you want, but in my journeys with many thirsty people, I’ve learned that we’re often not aware of what we really need, so we turn to voices that scratch our itches, but only temporarily, voices that tickle our ears with what we want to believe rather than challenging us to be real about who we really are and who Jesus calls us to be. Jeremiah understands this, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water… Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when he led you in the way?  Now why go to Egypt to drink water from the Nile? And why go to Assyria to drink water from the Euphrates?” 

In talking with Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus offers us a warning, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Jesus keeps calling us to follow him, to accept his Spirit, to walk his way, and shape our lives on his teaching and example. This is a call to trust that God and Jesus are leading us into the ways that are best for us out of their love for us. This means drinking deeply from his living water, filling our souls, hearts, and minds with Jesus and the Holy Spirit rather than voices that offer us more, but who in the end, abandon us when they’ve gotten what they want from us. 

Being thirsty often means that there is something going on that is uncomfortable or even difficult, we’re never promised an easy life, but the invitation is to drink deeply of Jesus’ living water that will give us what we need, especially his presence. John, in Revelation 22 offers again this invitation, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”