5th Sunday in Lent March 29, 2020
140, 157, 184, 54
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
In Christ Jesus the Lamb of God,
At first sight, our text and theme for today doesn’t appear to belong with the others in this Lenten series. The other texts are either from the Passion History itself or from the epistles where they comment directly on the meaning of the Passion. But this text is taken from a conversation that Jesus had with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. He says nothing here about His passion and death. As He tells the woman about the blessings He has to give to her He speaks in terms of water, not blood.
Jesus surely uses water in His teaching here because the conversation took place at a water well where this woman had come to draw water. But the connection between the living water that Jesus offers here and His shedding of blood on the cross is a close and direct one. The living water is a picture of the Holy Spirit and the salvation and eternal life that He gives us by connecting us with Christ by faith. It is the direct result of Christ’s atoning death that the Holy Spirit has been given to us and that salvation and eternal life are offered to us in the Gospel.
Today then we look at the salvation that Jesus won for us by His passion and death. We see how great a gift it is and how freely He gives it to us.
It is important that we behold and see the living water. We need to consider carefully what Jesus is talking about here, because He is using a picture. We also will want to look at what Jesus is talking about here because it is a gift that He is offering. Advertisers like to offer us many things that look attractive so that we would like to have them. But they are offered for sale, not as gifts. If we don’t have the money to purchase their offers, we can’t have them. If we have any hope at all of having an attractive but expensive item, it is usually somewhere in the future, not now. But Jesus offers the living water as a gift. Jesus calls it “the gift of God” earlier in His conversation with the Samaritan woman (v. 10). And in our text Jesus says twice that the living water is something that He will give. He says nothing about buying, paying, or earning; He offers it as a gift. And it is not a gift that is intended for only a select few, for He says, “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him…” He says nothing about any restrictions on who is eligible to receive this gift.
Jesus begins to describe and explain the living water by telling us what it is not. He says to the woman, “Whoever drinks of this water (that is, the water from Jacob’s well) will thirst again.” This is in response to her skepticism about Jesus’ ability to give her living water. He had opened the conversation by asking her for a drink; then He offers her water. How could He make such an offer? He has nothing in hand for drawing water, no equipment for getting water from a well as deep as Jacob’s well. Jesus tells her that He isn’t talking about water from an ordinary well. He isn’t talking about the water that she had come to draw and carry back to her house. That water is very limited in what it can do, Jesus says. It’s important to have; even Jesus required it. If you drink it, your thirst will go away, but only for a while. Soon your thirst will return again, and you will have to go back for more.
This ordinary water was what the woman had in mind as Jesus first talked to her about water. This was what she was concerned about. She needed water for drinking, cooking, and washing. She needed it every day, and to get it she had to make all those strenuous and tiring trips to the well and back. And the woman’s concern about water is typical of the concerns that people have for the things of this life. It is easy to get people interested in something that they think will benefit them physically and materially. If someone talks to us about increasing our annual income, we will probably listen. If someone talks to us about something that may improve our health—or just our appearance—we will probably listen. If someone just offers us some free food, we will probably be interested. Of course we are interested in all these things. But there is one thing that we should understand about these things, Jesus says here: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again.” All the things I have mentioned do not provide any lasting benefit. If someone gives us a good meal, we will be hungry again. If we find something that improves our health, we will still grow old and die. And even if we were to find long-term satisfaction in a career or a life-style, we would not be able to continue in it forever. We learn that lesson from the rich fool in Jesus’ parable. He felt satisfied and secure with the wealth that he had accumulated—and planned to accumulate—not knowing that he was going to die that very night (Luke 12:13-21).
In stark contrast to all of this, Jesus offers, as a gift, water that satisfies—really satisfies. He offers water that quenches thirst forever. “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.” One drink of this water and we will never be thirsty again. How can this be? Jesus goes on to explain, “The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” The water that Jesus gives is a self-sustaining source of life. It’s an ever-flowing fountain able to sustain life for all eternity. Jesus is surely talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit who enters our hearts through the gospel. And once He has entered our hearts He continues to dwell there with a life that never ends.
The Samaritan woman was listening. Hearing Jesus tell about the water that He wanted to give her, she said, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” She does not yet fully understand who Jesus is or what He is offering her, but she recognizes that this is something that would be worth having. “Please give me some of that,” she says.
The woman was interested and wanted what Jesus was offering her. But she still may have been wondering how He could deliver on a promise such as He was making. In what follows our text Jesus shows her that He is the Son of God, the promised Messiah. He shows that by demonstrating to her that He knew all the details of her life. “He told me all that I ever did” (v. 39), she later said to the people of her village. Jesus also told her plainly that He is the Messiah. When she expressed her hope that the Messiah was coming, Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He” (v. 25,26).
Once she knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Son of God, she could see that He was making no idle boast when He offered her living water. The man who had sat at the well and talked with her was the eternal Son of God made flesh, the I AM who existed before Abraham was. He is the one through whom the universe was created.
And it is the eternal deity of Jesus Christ that gives His blood shed on the cross the power to save us completely. There is no limit to its power to save. The power of the shed blood of Christ extends to the whole world of fallen humanity. It extends through all time and into eternity. As we read in Hebrews, “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him.” (Hebrews 7:25)
It is Jesus Christ who, as God and man, shed His blood for us that has given us living water. We drank of that water when by the power of the Holy Spirit we first came to believe in Jesus as our Savior. We drank of it when the water of baptism was poured out on us and the word of Christ spoken with it. And that living water has been in us ever since then, giving us life, a life that will never end.
We don’t have to be discouraged or depressed when we see that our possessions and experiences in this life do not endure and do not satisfy us. We don’t have to be afraid when we see that our life itself in this world cannot endure. We have Jesus Christ and from Him the living water that springs up into everlasting life. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.