“What Are You Truly Thirsting For?”

Mar 12, 2023

The Scripture

John 4:5-42

So he 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.) 10 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.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.” 15 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.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 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.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

27 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?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”


The Sermon

Seeking: Will you give me a drink? Wells, water, and God’s presence, all have been a part of our spiritual heritage since the beginning of the recording of experiences with God. The Old Testament passage verifies this connection when the Israelites are thirsty, and Moses hits the rock with his staff and water flows. The people are thirsty, and God again reveals God ‘s care of the people. The Israelites have water to quench their thirst, but more important they had the assurance that God had not forgotten them…God is still present, overseeing their care. Our passage this morning has its own historical connection, that goes back to the pre-exodus of the Israelites. The connection is the city of Samaritan in Sychar. This area is close to a piece of ground which Jacob gave to his son Joseph, and Jacob’s well is there too. We much not miss that Jesus now comes to this same place, he comes thirsty, asking for water from a Samaritan woman.

I want to start out by saying there is a lot under the surface of the story at the well. There was a centuries-old feud between Jews and the Samaritans at the time of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman. I’m saying a feud that lasted hundreds of years. Wishing to take the shortest route in his travels, Jesus and his disciples chose to go through Samaria on the way to Galilee. I don’t think it was a mistake that Jesus took this route, perhaps this journey through Samaria was a beginning to the end of the feud. But this long held feud helps us to understand why the Samaritan woman would be so surprised that Jesus would even speak to her. And to add to this, Jewish law prohibited a Rabbi, a teacher such as Jesus, to greet a woman in public, especially a woman of her known character. It also helps us to understand why the disciples when returning from town were so surprised to see the two of them talking together.

So, Jesus is alone by the well, Jacob’s well, and he is tired and thirsty and this woman approaches the well. Regardless of all the reasons we already named, Jesus reaches out to this Samaritan woman…he reaches out to her to ask her for a drink of water. We can’t miss the significance of this moment…a Jew asking a Samaritan for water. And even more astounding, it is Jesus who is in need and the woman in turn is offered the opportunity to give to Jesus what he needs…water! Jesus is being vulnerable and open, breaking through all these barriers to connect to this woman who carried with her this questionable past. And in turn, the Samaritan woman begins a life changing connection with Jesus. Now it seems from scripture that Jesus magically knows all about her past; her history of multiple marriages and now living with a man to whom she is not married. But one commentary suggested that the Samaritan woman and Jesus most likely had a much longer conversation.  A conversation that gave her time to share what must have been a very painful admission of past failures; failures that carried with them an undesirable reputation that was hard to let go of. And it began with Jesus asking for water!

Jesus opened the door to this intimate conversation that led to discovering this woman was indeed thirsty, but thirsty for something else. Maybe thirsty to see herself through the eyes of God instead of seeing herself through the eyes of the world. Seeing herself through the eyes of God who was sitting right before her. Seeing herself through the eyes of God that allowed her to forget the past and begin a new life filled with acceptance and love. She was so moved by her encounter with Jesus that she left her water jar behind and ran to tell others. Jesus accepted her for exactly who she was sitting right beside him at the well. The past no  longer was a heavy weight holding her down and she was able to grasp on to one who truly quenched her thirst, Jesus, the One who helped her to see her true beauty…the One who helped her then see what gives true life.

So what are you thirsting for? It’s hard to answer, isn’t it? Maybe it all begins with learning to be vulnerable with each other. Maybe it all begins by reaching out and asking for something, asking for help. Maybe it begins with allowing another person to enter into our troubled, mixed up lives, lives filled with a myriad of experiences, good and bad together. It is in this exposed, helpless space that we can show mercy to one another and in that sacred space we can be the eyes of God for others as well as let them be the eyes of God for us. It is in those encounters we experience the presence of the living God. Rachel Srubas in “The Desert of Compassion,” (our Lenten study book) interprets Psalm 143:6 with these words. “When you reach out to me, I reach back to you. I pour myself out like water. Drink, beloved, and let your soul be replenished by my mercy, which never runs dry.” Amen