Third Sunday in Lent (A)
March 15, 2020
Text: John 4:5-30, 39-42
She makes her way to the well at a rather strange hour, the sixth hour, high noon, in the heat of the day. This is not the time the other women come to draw water. Could it be that she is avoiding them? Their judgmental glares? Their gossiping tongues? Their righteously cold shoulders? They know who and what kind of woman this is. She knows it, too. Her reputation precedes her. She is a loose woman. She is a sinner. Not just in her heart. A real, honest-to-goodness sinner. Five husbands. Five failed marriages. Each man had used her and then abandoned her. And now she lives in sin. The man she now has is not her husband. He won’t even do her the honor of committing to her. He uses her body for his own pleasure. She uses her body to keep him. The whole situation is broken. Shameful. Fallen. And she just can’t face the other women of the town.
But as she approaches, there sits… a man! A Jewish man! And she, a Samaritan woman, is to have no dealings with Jewish men. But she has a job to do, and she’s going to do it, Jewish man or not. She needs the water. For drinking, for cooking, for washing, for bathing. Water is the stuff of life. You can’t live without it. So undoubtedly, without a word, she sets down her jar and begins to draw.
And that is when things get really scandalous. Not on her part… On Jesus’ part! He speaks to her! A Jew to a Samaritan! A man to an unaccompanied woman! An honorable man to this woman! A clean man to this woman who is anything but clean! Give me a drink.
Now, this woman is no stranger to scandal, but even she thinks this is over the top. How is it that You, a Jew, ask a drink from me, a woman of Samaria? We hate each other, remember? You especially despise us. We’re the leftovers from the time of the exile, intermarried with the nations, impure in your eyes.
Ah, dear woman, if you only knew the gift of God and who it is who is speaking to you, you would understand that you should really be asking me, and I would give you living water, and you will never be thirsty again.
Oh, really… How are You going to do that? Are You greater than Father Jacob, who gave us this well?
Ah, dear woman… I AM.
It should not surprise us that Jesus meets this woman at the well. The well, the source of life, water. The well… Cities are named after wells. Beer-lahai-roi, “Well of the Living One Who Sees Me,” where God saved Hagar (Gen. 16), where Isaac settled (Gen. 25:11). Beersheba, “The Seven Wells,” dug by Abraham and passed on to his children, a sign of God’s covenant and gift of the Promised Land. Baalath-beer, “Mistress of the Well,” that is Ramah (Josh. 19:8), where Rachel wells up in tears, weeping for her children and refuses to be comforted (Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:18).
Marriages are made at the well. Abraham’s servant finds a wife for Isaac, the beautiful Rebekah at a well (Gen. 24). Jacob meets Rachel at the well (Gen. 29). Moses meets his wife at the well (Ex. 2).
And the enemies of God’s people are forever trying to steal the wells (Gen. 21), fill in the wells and ruin them (Gen. 26:15), drive God’s people and their sheep away from the wells (Ex. 2), and God is forever rescuing His people from their enemies and restoring access to the life-giving water.
So what is Jesus doing at the well? This is a divine appointment! A marriage is being made! Jesus, the faithful Bridegroom, is bringing the Samaritan woman, and soon, her whole community, into the Bride of Christ, the Church! He is reclaiming the Promised Land. He is fulfilling God’s ancient covenant. He is driving away her enemies, the shaking heads and wagging tongues, sin, shame, impurity, filth. He sees the woman, and He rescues her. He comforts her and wipes her tears. Not by excusing her sin, but forgiving her, restoring her, restoring her access to the water, the water of life!
Later in John, at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, as the priest drew the ceremonial water from the Pool of Siloam and poured it out at the altar in the Temple, Jesus cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38; ESV). Jesus is the well! He is the Rock struck by Moses, from which came water in the wilderness for all of God’s people. As St. Paul says, “all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). God dug the well on the cross. He gouged it out from the dust of Jesus’ flesh… His hands, His feet… The soldiers struck His side and, like a well, out gushed the water and the blood. Jesus is the well, and there on Calvary He thirsted for us men and for our salvation. “I thirst,” He said (John 19:28), as He poured out the water of life from His body for us. “It is finished,” He said (v. 30), as He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit.
So ask Him if you’re thirsty. As a matter of fact, before you even ask, there He is, giving you to drink, slaking your thirst with the water of life. By the time the Samaritan woman asks Him to give her this water always so that she wouldn’t have to keep coming back to the well, He is already pouring forth the water of salvation in His Word.
Who really came to whom? Jesus was there at the well, not by accident. He’s waiting for her. Her sin and shame does not dissuade Him. Nothing will keep Him from saving her.
What about you? Who really came to whom? Jesus was there at the well of the font, not by accident, waiting for you. Your sin and shame did not dissuade Him. Nothing will keep Him from saving you.
Yes, there at the font, in Holy Baptism, Jesus makes you His own. He brings you into His Church, His holy Bride! He drives away your enemies, sin, death, the devil… all who would fill in the well or drive you from it. He gives you access to the living water of salvation that flows form His wounds. It flows to you in His Word and Holy Sacraments.
And unlike all the others who came before… the five husbands who used and abandoned the poor woman at the well, the man who was using her for his own selfish desires and would not marry her, the idols that defile you and abandon you, with whom you have made yourself unclean… unlike all of them, Jesus is ever faithful. For the first time in her life, a man truly loved the woman at the well, not in lewdness, but in faithfulness. For the first time in your life, at the well of the font, you have a God who actually loves you, who is faithful, who will never leave you nor forsake you, who forgives you and restores you and provides for your every need.
Divorce is not God’s will for you. It happens, I understand (and of course, there are the biblical reasons for divorce; namely, adultery [Matt. 19:8-9] and abandonment [1 Cor. 7:15]), but it is not God-pleasing. It is a mark of the pervasive brokenness of humanity. We are not meant to go from husband to husband, wife to wife. And we should not live together outside of marriage. We should reserve sex for marriage. I know this is hard for you, but you must hear it. The boyfriend who expects his girlfriend to live with him outside of marriage, who expects sex from her before marriage, is using her in the same way the Samaritan woman was used. Christian men, don’t be that guy! Christian women, don’t let your boyfriend be that guy! Don’t give yourself to that kind of guy. Repent. Your body is holy. You are precious to the Lord. You should treat one another as precious and holy. Just get married! Commit! Love one another really and truly, in the full sense of the word. If you are in a situation that is not God-pleasing, come and see your pastor to be absolved, and to make the situation right.
For whatever your sins, Jesus will not reject you. Neither will your pastor, by the way. Jesus will take your shame from you. He will not leave you in your sin. He will forgive you. He will wash away your guilt. He will quench your thirst with living water. His Spirit. His righteousness. His salvation. Poured out from His sacred veins. Pooled in font and chalice. Flowing from His mouth in the speaking of His Word and Absolution.
And what will happen then? The water that Jesus gives will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Salvation will bubble over with faith toward God and fervent love toward one another. Faith will bring forth faithfulness. The Spirit will open your lips to go and tell others, without fear and without shame. And like the Samaritan woman, you’ll bring them with you to encounter Jesus for themselves. Where? The well, of course. Jesus meets His Bride around the well. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.