3rd Sunday in Lent – A LSB #’s 421:1-2, 4; 699, 435
Text – John 4:6a
Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as He was from his journey, was sitting beside the well.
SITTING BESIDE THE WELL
The pastor is going down the line at the communion rail. He comes to a mother with two children & since this is pre-Covid, he actually puts his hand on the head of each child to give a blessing. Then, he places his hand on the mother’s stomach & blesses the child in the womb. Except, the woman was not pregnant.
I hope that’s an apocryphal story with no basis in fact, but you can understand what an awkward moment that would be. It’s an awkward moment, in the Gospel of John, when the Samaritan woman arrives at the well. A Jewish man is sitting there & he speaks to her. Even worse, he asks her to give him a drink. He seems oblivious to the cultural & religious taboos.
The woman tries to alert him to the issues, but he ignores them & pushes forward with the conversation. You & I have experienced those moments as well. They are uncomfortable because of the conflicting thoughts going on in our mind. The cultural or religious norms tell us how things should go, yet the reality we face is entirely different.
When those awkward moments occur, wanting to just get away is a common feeling. You may experience that as you’re walking around the downtown area of a city & a panhandler approaches. I’ve experienced it in nursing homes as dementia patients reach out to me in the hallways. Politeness says I should respond. Experience tells me who knows what will happen.
Where my mom was staying the last few years of her life, I responded to one patient by saying hello & shaking his hand. He almost broke my thumb. After those awkward moments occur, we are normally left wondering, “What was I supposed to do?” & “I hope that doesn’t happen again.” Yet, because Jesus is involved with this awkward incident at the well, the Samaritan woman is left with a feeling of joy & amazement. The end result of this encounter comes after the Gospel lesson, but the woman returns to her town & said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” Notice that she doesn’t get preachy or tell them what to believe. She simply asks the question that was left on her mind.
When we encounter those awkward moments in our lives that is probably a good strategy for us to follow as well. Invite other people into the conversation that is going on in your mind. In the case of the Samaritan woman at the well, that’s what she did:
“Many Samaritans from that town believed in [Jesus] because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, & He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, & we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” (John 4:39-42 ESV)
Yes, the awkward moments of life make us uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean we should be afraid of them. They might even be moments that God prepared in advance, for us to walk in them. Jesus was exhausted from His travels & sat down beside a well to rest. From that desire to rest, many people came to believe in Jesus as Savior, people we will meet someday.
The Samaritan woman had been married five times & when she meets Jesus she’s living with another man outside of marriage. We can imagine that she’s been hurt & hardened by all those failed relationships. On top of that, she was trapped spiritually by the false understanding of Messiah, & of worship, which the Samaritans operated with.
She came to the well with a thirst for literal water, but that was not all. Like Jesus, she was exhausted from her journey to the well, but her exhaustion involved the entirety of her life apart from God’s Holy Spirit. She was trudging through this sinful world without the peace of mind & forgiveness that a relationship with the Savior would bring to her.
All human beings need water, even more than food, in order to have physical life.
However, without the living water, as Jesus describes, there is not life at all. That living water is the Holy Spirit that comes to us in our baptism. In the Gospel reading, Jesus’ life-giving words bring with them the life-giving water & gift of the Holy Spirit to the Samaritan woman. Upon coming to life spiritually, she immediately begins to overflow that water by telling others.
That effect is described later in John’s Gospel: “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up & cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me & drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’” (7:37-38 ESV) In other words, as God blesses us, those blessings overflow to the people around us.
When Jesus arrives at the well, He is exhausted, yet He reaches out to this Samaritan woman who needs to be restored to true life in relationship with her Creator. She listens & she receives the gift that her Savior offers to her. Maybe without even realizing it, she had been longing for a more hopeful future than she was living. Jesus gave it to her & she believed.
All of us, deep down, thirst for things to be made new & right. Even the unbelieving world is longing for that, but they refuse to receive the solution that Jesus paid for with His life. They search for their own solutions in all the wrong things & in all the wrong places. It doesn’t take long & the world’s solutions bring even more weariness & exhaustion.
When we think of Jesus, & what the Bible tells us about Him, what normally comes to mind are all the things that He was constantly doing – preaching, teaching & healing. Jesus performed many miracles, so we don’t typically think of Him as a lollygagger, sitting down on the job, doing nothing.
We also know how Martha was really disappointed in Mary. Martha was doing all the work & her sister was sitting down on the job – not helping Martha at all. You know how that went. Martha ended up being scolded by Jesus & Mary was the one to whom He gave credit for
doing the most important thing, listening to the Words of God’s Son. Before the gift of the Spirit, the Samaritan woman only sees life in terms of her ancestors’ link to Jacob, Joseph & the blessed well. After the gift of the Spirit, the Samaritan woman sees her life in terms of a more lasting & even eternal ancestry – her relationship with Yahweh through His Son Jesus.
Before the gift of living water, she sees devotion to God in terms of a particular holy place (Mount Gerizim). After, she sees devotion to God in terms of faith in Jesus, God’s “truth,” which amounts to worship “in the Spirit.” Since Jesus is God’s temple & presence, one looks for God neither on Mt. Gerizim nor in Jerusalem. Instead, one looks to His Son & Messiah.
Before, we are invited, along with Jesus’ disciples, to see the Samaritan woman’s life as one of limitations, disappointments, failures, & sins. After, we are invited to see the work of God in the life of a suffering outsider & to celebrate her new life in Jesus, as well as the extension of that life through the woman’s bold witness to her countrymen.
Her soul now thirsts for the living God, & desires to become clean. When the sinner, in whom the Lord is working, recognizes total personal unworthiness & corruption, the question becomes so much more active; “Where can I find a gracious Lord?” In the life of the Samaritan woman, Jesus was waiting for her at the well. Jesus is waiting for you here today!
As we prayed earlier, in the collect: “O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways & bring them again with penitent hearts & steadfast faith to embrace & hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word.”
The next time an awkward moment arises in your life, at least consider the fact that Jesus might have prepared that moment in advance just for you. Amen.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me & rest; lay down, thou weary one, lay down thy head upon My breast.” I came to Jesus as I was, so weary, worn & sad; I found in Him a resting place, & He has made me glad. I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give the living water; thirsty one, stoop down & drink & live.” I came to Jesus, & I drank of that life-giving stream; my thirst was quenched, my soul revived, & now I live in Him. Amen. LSB 699:1-2.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet