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Promised Treasures - Water, Part 2

March 12, 2023 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lent 2023: Promised Treasures

Topic: Biblical Verse: John 4:5–26

The Third Sunday in Lent

 March 12, 2023

John 4:5-26

 “Promised Treasures – Water, Part 2”

Everybody needs water – no question about that. It’s one of the basic necessities of life, and the foundation for just about every other drink imaginable: coffee, tea, soda, alcohol and more. We can do without coffee (or can we?) or alcohol, but we cannot do without water. There is a difference between water and clean water – water that’s drinkable. Roughly one in three people throughout the world don’t have access to clean water (Sundays and Seasons: Year A, 2023. Minneapolis: Augsburg-Fortress, 2022; p. 120). “Today’s [Scripture] readings lift up the preciousness of both literal and spiritual water, the unending flow of divine love symbolized in the image of Moses releasing water from a rock (Exod. 17:1-7) and of Jesus providing ‘a spring of water gushing up to eternal life’ (John 4:14)” (Ibid.). Today we focus once again on God’s promised treasure that is water as Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well. That becomes the theme for preaching this day. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

First, a word about our Lenten series, “Promised Treasures.” According to the schedule provided, today was supposed to be about light, and that’s what you’ll find in the “Promised Treasures” Lenten devotional book for this whole week. But today’s Scripture readings are all about water, not light (that will be next Sunday), and so once again this week we’re going to focus on water – water part 2! This whole series lifts up how the Gospel is conveyed through physical senses of sight, smell, and touch. On the Sundays of this Lenten season, we will see, touch, smell, and feel things like ashes, salt, water, light, and palms. During Holy Week, the focus shifts to elements like water and blood (wine) for Maundy Thursday, wood for Good Friday, and finally, milk and honey for Easter Sunday. The purpose of focusing on these earthly elements is to make the eternal love of God more memorable, tactile, and meaningful for the people of God. Living as we do in an anxious and sinful world, these elements are memorable footholds for renewed hope and strength in our journey of faith.

Last week, we heard about water – part 1 with Jesus and his late-night conversation with Nicodemus. Jesus spoke about the necessity of being born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God. And now, Jesus has another conversation with a different person about water. This time, it’s the Samaritan woman at the well. How come we know Nicodemus’ name but we don’t know this woman’s name? Is it because she’s a woman, or because she’s from Samaria? Scripture doesn’t tell us. We do know that there was longstanding hostility between Jews and Samaritans going back hundreds of years. The woman says as much to Jesus, but Jesus doesn’t get drawn into this blackhole. Instead, Jesus speaks to the woman about something she and everyone needs: water. And not just any old water, but living water.

It’s always good to have an idea where the places are that we read about in Scripture, and so a map is helpful. We’re told that this conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman took place at a town called Sychar, in the land of Samaria, sandwiched between Judea to the south and Galilee to the north. Jacob’s well is still in existence today, in the city of Nablus, in the West Bank. There is a Greek Orthodox church over the well today. All of this sets the faith we share in historical context. None of this was imagined or pulled out of the air. In the Person of Jesus, God entered our world in a particular place at a particular time to bring us the life-giving, soul-renewing water of his saving love.

In the dry, arid climate of the Middle East, water is incredibly precious. It has always been so. We can make all kinds of assumptions about why the woman was coming to the well at an off-time. Usually, water was obtained from a community well in the morning and evening, and it was the women who did this chore each day. In speaking to her about the living water that he supplies, Jesus reveals the woman’s past; that she’s had five husbands. Again, we can make all kinds of assumptions about this, inferring that she was living in adultery. But Jesus doesn’t say that. The social order of the time was that a woman’s security came from her husband, and without that, women had no security. Whatever the situation may have been, Jesus is calling her from her old life to something new; something that would give ultimate satisfaction. Isn’t that what we want, too? Maybe we’re more like that Samaritan woman than we’d care to admit. There may be things from our own past that we’d rather not think about, and certainly don’t want others to know about. We become weary of going to the well, so to speak, day in and day out. We long for that something that will quench our deepest thirst and revive us. What we need is what only Jesus can give: living water.

In today’s Old Testament lesson (Exodus 17:1-7), God’s people were on their way to the Promised Land, but out there in the wilderness, they became so thirsty they were ready to kill Moses. God graciously provided them water from a rock there in the wilderness. But after drinking their fill, the people became thirsty again, and they became dissatisfied again. Moses pointed ahead to Jesus who alone provides that living water which satisfies. There is a distinction to be made between well water and living water. The former is stagnant, but the latter is fresh and flowing. The Lord calls out his people’s mixed up priorities through the prophet Jeremiah: “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). What was true then remains true today. We look for things to satisfy our thirst in life that are never going to satisfy us. We’re looking for things to do for us what only God can do. It’s like the difference between water out of a cistern vs. water from a fountain. Have you ever had water from a cistern? It’s better than nothing, that’s for sure, but there’s no comparison with fresh and flowing living water. This is what Jesus came to be for us all and to give to us all.

This is the good news of God’s promised treasure made real in God’s own Son, Jesus. What will give us real and lasting satisfaction in life? What will truly quench our thirst? Only Jesus. The good news of what he has done for us is this: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). In worship today, but every day, take a big refreshing drink of Jesus, our Living Water, and find your refreshment and satisfaction in him. Amen.

More in Lent 2023: Promised Treasures

March 26, 2023

Promised Treasures - Stone

March 19, 2023

Promised Treasures - Light

March 5, 2023

Promised Treasures - Water