Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;
So [Jesus] came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 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.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”” (John 4:5–26, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This sinful woman, has an encounter with God. She has questions. He answers them. She has no illusions about who she is, a sinful, mortal person looking for the hope of eternal life through the coming Messiah. It starts by Jesus asking for a drink of water. Already, she knows something is different. No Jewish Rabbi would speak to a woman in public, let alone ask her to do such a task for him as fetch him water. Jesus initiates the conversation. It is a conversation about who he is. "If you knew who was speaking to you…"
She doesn't understand. She sees a tired Jewish Rabbi sitting by a well. She is there doing a daily, menial, never-ending task. She goes to the well as thousands before her had done, to fill up pots of water and take them home. She goes in the morning early (or it could be during the midday sun) to do a task that she must do every day.
Jesus turns the conversation into a spiritual one. "I have 'living water' to give you. If you drink of my water you will never be thirsty."
After her walk, carrying water jugs, she must've been thirsty, but Jesus was talking of spiritual thirst, her sin. "How is it that you have water? I don't see anything for you to get water out of this deep well."
Jesus answers, "The water I have is not from this well. If you drink my water you will never be thirsty again, and you will live forever."
"That's what I want!" She says. "Then I wouldn't have to keep coming to this well every day."
Jesus is about to drive the point home. He is opened her heart to listen to what he has to say. He's about to show her exactly who he is. "Go get your husband and bring him." Jesus knows exactly who she is, and exactly what her situation is.
"I have no husband."
"Yes, that's true. You don't have 'A' husband. You have had five. Now you're living with someone who is not your husband." The woman's life, her heart, her sin, is all an open book to Jesus. He opens the wound of her sin. The true nature of her thirst is all laid out before him.
Now she sees more in Jesus and she saw before. He has shown that he knows a part of her she already knew. "Sir, I see that you are prophet."
Jesus is drawing her in. He's revealed to her, her thirst. She has a need for forgiveness and he is about to show her exactly where she can find it.
She continues, "I am a Samaritan." She believes she is on the outside. She brings up one of the primary differences between Jews and Samaritans. They are standing in the shadow of Mount Gerizim, the holy place of the Samaritans. They believed that true worship happened only there. The Jews had their temple on mount Zion. Jesus makes them both irrelevant.
"It's not the mountain, it's me! Salvation is from the Jews." A little bit later Jesus will say it this way, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV)
Jesus has laid it on the table. The woman is about to reveal her faith. "I know that Messiah is coming."
Now, there are two issues with the readings for this morning. The first is the gospel lesson that ends right here. We miss her reaction to coming to understand who Jesus really is. She can't wait to tell people that she has found the Messiah. She runs through the town.
The second is that I have an issue with the translation. According to the ESV text Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”” (John 4:26, ESV) and while it is technically correct, it misses a major point. A much better translation would be, "I am is the one speaking to you." The whole discussion that Jesus has with the woman is about exactly who he is. He shows her, her sin and points her toward the salvation she expects in the Messiah. The statement of Jesus here is one of the "I am" statements of Jesus. "I am the bread of life… The water of life… The gate…" The Greek is ἐγώ εἰμί. It's an emphatic "I". It's the language from the burning bush. Moses is a about to go free the people from slavery in Egypt. He asks of God, "Who shall I say has sent me?"
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”” (Exodus 3:14, ESV) It was at that point that God gave his people that name, "I am" to his people.
Jesus is being very explicit. He is saying, "I am God in the flesh, the Messiah you expect, the one who has come to bring you forgiveness. I am here, the way, the truth, and the life. If you see me as the Messiah, if you bring your sin to me for forgiveness, you know the truth."
The woman's reaction was to leave her water jug there at the well. She had received the water of life promised by Jesus. The water from the well is not nearly as important as it was moments ago. She runs to the town asking the real question about Jesus. It is the question that must always be answered if we are to understand what Scripture has to say. The question is "Is Jesus Christ the Messiah."
Don't be fooled. There's so much noise about today. So many people declaring who Jesus is. So much in popular culture that denies "the truth." Movies that try to tell you that heaven is real, and popularize God story of salvation through the flood and make the story of the Bible about the purpose of your life. When the truth is so much simpler than that. Here in this simple account we see everything we need to know about Jesus. In fact he tells us what we need to know. He is God and man together in the flesh. We see his human nature tired sitting at the well and thirsty. He declares that he is God by using God's very name. He tells us he has come to bring forgiveness, that is living water for thirsty people. Your are sin and my sin is no less than woman at the well. It's not sex that's her problem. It is her sinful nature.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12–13, ESV)
Our sin condemns us. There should be no living water for us to drink. That is exactly why Jesus is who he is. It is exactly why he goes from Jacob's well to the cross. The sin that is laid bare by the piercing of the Word, the thoughts and desires and intentions of our hearts, is carried by Jesus. One who knew no sin became sin for us. The living water that he has to give is that which comes from his pierced side flowing with blood and water. It is forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness from the Messiah. Forgiveness given to the woman at the well. Forgiveness for you and for me.
The Bible, the Word of God, is an encounter with God, in Jesus Christ. It is about that, more than anything else. We have questions, God answers them. Don't have any illusions about who you are. You are a sinful mortal person looking for the Messiah to give you eternal life. In the Word, Jesus offers you that very thing. He offers himself, his sacrifice, his forgiveness, his living water, to you. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.