Living Waters

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

John 4.5-42

So Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 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.) 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.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 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.’ 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.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ 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.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

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?’ Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ They left the city and were on their way to him.

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’

 

Sermon

Jesus is a stranger in a strange town.  He’s tired.  He’s hungry.   He’s thirsty.  Out on the steet he sees a small building with a sign that reads, Jacob’s Well Bar & Grill.

So he walks in.  He finds a seat, orders a beer & fish sandwich.  There’s a juke box in the corner playing “If I Were a Carpenter.”  Jesus smiles and subconsciously hums along.

Pretty soon woman walks into Jacob’s Well and takes the stool next to Jesus.  It’s clear she’s a townie.  She speaks in the clipped syllables of the locals.  Jesus, who once said that when you travel, don’t take an extra coat or cloak or purse, seldom carries many denarii and asks her, Buy me a drink? The woman says, How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me?  I’m not your type.  I can tell by your robes you’re from Nazareth, I’ve spent my whole life here in Samaria.

The bartender overhears, and quietly sets them both up with a drink.

Besides, I’m a married woman.  You don’t want to be seen talking to me.

Jesus takes a sip.  I know, I see your ring.  The barkeep here tells me you were in last week with someone not your husband. 

How many times have you been married?

The woman looks down.  She looks back up.  It’s that obvious, huh?

Jesus takes a guess:  Second marriage?  Third?  She’s quiet.  Jesus nods; More. 

She looks him in the eye:  Five.  Not that it’s any of your business.  It’s not easy, you know.

And you’re toying with the idea of a sixth?  No, he’s just a friend.  Jesus smiles through the lie.

She orders another drink for herself.  A double.

Jesus says, you know, that may help you forget your troubles for a little while, but eventually they come back.  They always do.  You know this, right? 

The Samaritan woman doesn’t like direction this is taking.  She thinks about getting up and walking away.

But instead she just looks at him.  It’s clear to her that at some level he gets her and yet he isn’t judging her.  Somehow this bothers her.

Nearly imperceptibly, her eyes well up as she looks into her glass.

At this most awkward of moments, a few of Jesus’ friends wander into Jacob’s and see the two of them sitting together talking.

Andrew elbows Simon and gestures.  Jesus talking with a woman at the local watering hole.  Not just any woman - a Samaritan woman!  What is he thinking?  Do you think he sees us?  They turn around and scoot out, not saying anything to him.

He sees them, of course, but turns his attention back to his bar mate. 

She answers his question.  So what if I come in here from time to time to forget?  Do you have a better idea?

Well, if you mean do I have a magic potion, a drink that will make your worries go away, the answer is No.  She shrugs.  But I can give you something that will help you become your best self, the woman you used to think you could be.

She gives him the side-eye.  She’s heard this line before.  She waits him out, doesn’t say anything - this is one thing she is good at, staying silent until the man gets uncomfortable with the silence and breaks it himself.  But Jesus just sits there.  He’s good at it too, drawing people out.  A hundred unspoken thoughts hang in the air.

She blinks first.  What?  What is it?  What is it you think you can you give me so that I never want to come in here again?

Even before he speaks, Jesus knows she won’t like his answer.  Not at first anyway. He waits one more beat and she asks him again – insistently this time, with just a hint of desperation:

What do you have so that I will never be thirsty again?

So he tells her.  Love.

She laughs out loud.  Love?  That’s it?  Do you know how many men have told me the same thing?  How many men have told me they love me and they can fix all my problems?  For a minute I thought you were different from all the others.  I should have known better.

She thinks about having another. But something in her hesitates.

After all, most of the men she meets are pretty transparent in their intentions while she remains closed up like a clam.  But this one seems to read her like a book.  She is the one who has become transparent, and as she replays their conversation, her heart quickens.

How do you know about all my husbands?  Why am I telling you all these things?  Where did my defenses go?  Who are you?

His response is as truthful as it was enigmatic:  “I am.  I am the one who is speaking to you.”

And in that moment she felt release.  Her emotions pour out of her like a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.  It was as though the very spirit of holiness courses through her because this man knows everything there is to know about her and loves her anyway. 

She says to him, Give me that drink so that I may never be thirsty and never want to come back here again.

And Jesus says, In your question you have your answer.  It has already been done.

And she knows.  And she knows.  And she goes out into the streets and villages telling everyone she meets, Come and see the man who told me everything I have ever done.

And because of what she did, people all over the city went to him, and believed.

Let those who have ears to hear, hear.

Amen.

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