Let’s take a deep breath and open our hearts, mind, soul and spirit to receive the message that God has for us this morning. As we focus our thoughts on the mystic presence of the Holy One, let us pray: Lord God, Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, please let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Strength, our Rock and our Redeemer. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Last week, we saw the contrast between the literal mind and the spiritual mind. We saw that spiritual thinking opens the way for us to be born again through our belief and the water of our transformational baptism. Gustavo Gutiérrez, the author of the book, The Theology of Liberation, wrote that, “Faith is not limited to affirming the existence of God. No, faith tells us that God loves us and… This response is given through love for human beings, and that is what we mean by a commitment to God and to our neighbor.” Today, Jesus invites us to connect with the inner sanctum of the spirit realm through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Through this invitation, we see a contrast between the insiders and the outsiders, or the “haves” and the “have-nots.” In Isaiah 12: 3, we read, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
Today, we’ll see that spiritual and emotional thirst are as real as physical thirst, when Jesus comes to the Samaritan woman, an outsider, the “have-not,” the person who is at the bottom of the barrel in her town and her society. Jesus engages her in a life changing conversation. We read, that, “Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. (Noon, swelteringly hot-Jesus: hot, tired and thirsty) When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” As you know, Jews looked down on Samaritans, because the Jews thought that Samaritans were ceremonially unclean, because they had inter-married and built their own places of worship away from Jerusalem. And, of course, a woman, and in fact all women of that day, had no status in the patriarchal society of the time of Jesus. So the well, symbolically, is a place where things and people come together, and Jesus comes to a well in the heat of the day, and meets a Samaritan woman, a despised person with absolutely no status.
Water is also a biblical symbol for the gift of wisdom, which we see in Jesus as He answers, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." This goes back to Jeremiah 2:13, where Jeremiah refers to
God as “Living Water.” And here, in John’s Gospel, Jesus refers to living water as eternal life. So, Jesus comes to this woman, engages her in conversation, and looks into the heart of hearts of her soul to find out who she is, and in fact, find out if SHE even knows who she is.
The Samaritan woman responds to the offer of Jesus by saying to Him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?" Jesus doesn’t reveal to her, yet, who He is. Instead, “Jesus answers, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." Of course, the well Jesus speaks of is the well of eternal life, the deep well of the soul which we may all draw from, as believers. So, we must ask ourselves: is the deep well within us dry and dusty, or has God filled it up with the living water of the Holy Spirit?
So far, we know it’s about noon on a hot day. Our scriptural picture places Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well at the same time. Jesus has been on a long journey and seeks out a place by a well where He can refresh Himself, and it’s no coincidence that it’s Jacob’s well. I imagine that
drawing water was hard work for a woman: water is bulky and heavy, and if you’re going to make a trip to a well to get water in the middle of a hot day, you want to make every move count. If you’ve ever had to haul water; say from a stream or well to a house or a cabin, you want to get as much as you can on the first trip, so you might not have to make a second trip right away.
So, next, Jesus examines her integrity and her heart. “The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." Jesus told her, "Go, call your husband and come back." "I have no husband," she replied. Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true." The Samaritan woman at the well is no angel. She’s gotten herself mixed up with the wrong crowd, and this poor woman from Samaria has, in fact, quite a reputation. She has been married five times and is living in sin with a man who isn't her husband. Her spirit has been broken and abused by the life she’s lived. But, in Psalm 51, we read, “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
I believe that this Samaritan woman is a woman of integrity, a broken, but honest woman who has a big hole in her heart from all the men in her life who have abused and disappointed her. Nevertheless, we know that she wants to be loved, because she has sought out love through the five failed
marriages that she’s had. She’s wanted to be loved so badly that she’s risked being married to five different men, all of whom had abused her in some way, shape or form! She’s put her faith in the wrong place. Yet, though the Samaritan woman has been married five times and is now living with another whom she is not married to, Jesus doesn’t judge her, except to say that “what you have just said is quite true.”
The Samaritan woman probably goes to the well during the hottest part of the day, to avoid the wagging tongues of her fellow townspeople. She gets water for her home without being bothered or seen. "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus speaks about the well of living water, which gives eternal life, divine grace, and God-life within the soul. That well is deep, and the woman thirsts for this type of water, because she, like us, wants to be whole and complete, and in fact, have a better life of ANY kind. She craves the love that this life suggests; and that is a love that can’t be found, bought or had in the abusive marriages that she’s been through. Jesus shows her that she needs to confess her sins and change her life before she can obtain this life-giving water--living water which comes by the grace and mercy of the Living God who is present with us always. Jesus knows she’s a sinner, yet Jesus implies His forgiveness by offering the living water of eternal life.
Then Jesus declares, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." Then Jesus declares, "I who speak to you am He." Jesus gives the answer of who He is to who (?); not the Pharisees and the Sadducees, not the ruling elite of the temple in-crowd upper-crust, but to a nobody, a Samaritan woman who is at the bottom of the barrel in her world! This is our Lord at HIS best, isn’t it? He reveals His identity, not to an elite person, but to a poor woman.
“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?" Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" They came out of the town and made their way toward him. Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." So, when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."
Today, we’ve heard from both the Samaritan woman and everybody in that whole town that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God! Whether you’re an insider or an outsider, saved or sinner, the Samaritan woman gives all of us hope. Jesus brought to her the love, mercy, grace and forgiveness that tells us that no matter what our personal circumstances are, or ever have been, Jesus meets us right where we stand, and offers to us love, hope, mercy, grace, forgiveness and a new life from the deep well of Living Water that IS God. For those of us whose deep inner well is dry and dusty; and for we who thirst for spiritual God-presence, Jesus offers us the water that only He can give; the water that wells up to eternal life. Jesus calls us to the Living Water: the deep well of the new life that God has prepared for each one of us. So today, if you’re thirsty for what is important in life, I would say: open your heart of hearts, your core essence, your soul, and let Jesus Christ give to you the living water that wells up to eternal life. Amen? Amen. Let us pray:
Jan Ekstedt MDiv.