Drinking Deep – Lent 3 12/03/2023

John 4:5-42

So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

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.[a])

10 Jesus answered her, “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.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.”

15 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.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 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.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

27 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?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.”

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 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 Saviour of the world.”

Everything about this encounter between a Jewish rabbi and an unnamed Samaritan woman is surprising. Every boundary is crossed by Jesus. It is surprising because grace, and grace is by definition, surprising.

There are three boundaries Jesus crosses here:

  1. Jews do not associate or share anything with Samaritans. Samaritans are regarded as inferior people who have sold out to pagan culture and made that worse by pretending they have not. They have come up with a hybrid religion that merely mimics the true religion. They even had the gall to build a copy of the Jerusalem temple at Mt Gerazim. The Jewish revolutionaries razed that to ground, thankfully, about 130 years prior to this day in the sun.
  2. Jewish men do not talk to women in any meaningful/equal way. Such is that status of women in ancient culture. They are mere servant, slave, property – especially a Samaritan one.
  3. Jewish men never share cups and cutlery with anyone non-Jewish. To ask for a drink from her bucket; to seek hospitality of sharing food or drink is unthinkable for any self-respecting Jewish person.

This is God’s grace at work.

But it is a process for us. It does come automatically for us.

Jesus has to do four things for this living water he carries to be received. He needs to;

  1. get her alone without distraction.
  2. get her mind going – intellectually engage her.
  3. show her false saviours, her ‘poison water’, before she can find this true Saviour and his Living Water.
  4. Only then reveal who he is – “I AM’; the Lord God with her, ‘I Am he’.

Another surprise: This woman is doing nothing ‘spiritual’? She is not reading from the book of Isaiah in the chariot, like the Ethiopian man. She is not seeking God, praying, scathing herself for failing again or trying to be especially good. She is not doing anything except getting water – an ordinary day doing an ordinary thing.

And yet, grace arrives and grabs her in this Jesus of Nazareth. She will be transformed.

Grace does not seem to have rules. She knows the rules. Religion, culture, moral expectations are not surprising at all. They tell you exactly what they want and what you should do.

  • Work hard and get ahead.
  • Look good and be approved.
  • Associate well and you will be in the inner circle of special privilege.
  • Serve the right people and you will be safe.
  • Learn the right things and you will find yourself and improve the world.
  • Develop the right knowledge and you fix all your problems.
  • Make a mistake and expect to be excluded and cancelled – it is the way things works….

Jesus does not seem to read from this rule book.

He sends off his little band into town. He gets her alone, without distraction.

What a first surprise: He who has the all the power, puts it aside as he asks for something from her that she can easily deliver.

This starts the conversation.

It begins with the obvious topic – water. Two kinds of water – the wet stuff our bodies mostly made up of water need daily, and the heavenly stuff that all of me needs all the time, for all time.

The second water is a ‘Living Water’.

…, “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.”

This water has its own life force. It is like an underground spring. You can damn up a river; stop it flowing, but you can’t clog up a spring. The spring just keep springing. This grace of this man becomes like a spring of new life for everyday inside you. No matter how much poison stuff you drink in, this spring cannot be dammed up …

Sounds good!

 I lift up my eyes to the mountains –

    where does my help come from?

Good question. That is a Lent question. How is my journey of faith going and where or who am seeking the help I think I need, especially is the outlook is dark or doubtful?

We have our dangers and threats ad problems – physical health, food and water supply, money supply, pain from enemies, guilt for wrongs, shame from regrets, doubt from fears, temptations to fix it all quick……

We have our gods – the hills to which we turn more than that cross on the hill.

You can tell you are dealing with gods/idols when you hear this within yourself or others…

“If only …”

If only I could have that assurance that my life will count to someone

If only I could look like that

If only I could earn that kind of money and one day have that life

If only I could be like him or her.

If only I could find a trustworthy partner for life

If only I could find someone to love for life

If only I could make that problem go away

If only I could get rid of that debilitating weakness.

If only I could live like they all want me to live

So, we all dice with the doubt and danger we face by leaving a few figs here, a few grapes there, a few dollars to that thing, just a bit more work for a bit more recognition, a little more aggression to win that argument, a bit more of that to kill the pain …

The gods of the world demand sacrifice – and sacrifice in ever increasing amounts.

As we look to the hills instead of looking to the God who created those hills, the relationship of trust between us is broken. Without hardly knowing at first, we put ourselves on a head long journey to emptiness and loneliness down in the dark shadows at the bottom of the gorge.

Why? For one reason: the gods of stone and wood and fame and fortune and self-focus and human glory cannot deliver what they promise. They are fake. They are imposters. They are a lie. I looking to them for life, we die that little bit more.

But, thank God the song goes on; and quickly!

15 …“Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

She is not there yet. She is still back at the first kind of water. But she would be very happy to have running water, not living water! She would like to be the first person on her block in town to have running water, not this living water! It would save the constant trip and constant aloneness.

She reminds me of a friend on the edge of believing in Jesus’ grace, but does not ‘know’ him yet. She is happy to read a Christian book, even come to a church run thing, share a conversation about Christianity, even teach in a Lutheran school, but does not yet understand/know this Jesus living water in this Jesus – the grace of God. The spring has not yet sprung.

She also reminds me of a long-term connected Lutheran friend who is happy to be part of the church and even serve in doing things and who loves the fellowship but has never know or has forgotten this grace. He wishes he could have a faith like that other person, read his bible more, be a ‘better Christian’; somehow manufacture the adoration of Jesus that some other people at church seem to have.

Many would say that Jesus now ‘changes the subject’. “This is not going anywhere. Let’s try this. Let’s talk about personal sin!” That will get her!

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 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.”


Jesus is not changing the subject at all. He is not even talking about her ‘sin’. The word is not mentioned. On other occasions it is. Remember the woman caught in adultery? Jesus says “Go and sin now more”, to her. Not here.

Jesus is not changing he subject. He is not giving up on grace or this woman by moving to guilt her or shame her. He is not shifting to condemnation. He is driving at conviction.

Now he will lead her into knowing what kind of water she has been drinking – poison water.

Like everyone else, this woman has been drinking deeply of the things she needs. We all pour our heart and soul into getting the acceptance, affirmation, meaning, hope and love we need by various ‘drinks’: things, people, causes, work, sex, money, beliefs, practices, art, places…..

Her particular ‘poison chalice’ seems to be something to do with the approval of men, her beauty, her body, sex, or just surviving in a brutal world.

Until she can see the poison in the water, she will not be able to find the living water.

But the woman can’t ‘go there’, yet.

She now switches the subject. This conversation with Jesus is getting too close.

She switches to the burning theological issue of their day: which temple on which mountain is the right place to worship the Lord – your Jerusalem or my Mt Gerazim.

Another surprise: Soon it will be neither.

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.

The “hour’ is coming”. For John, that ‘time’ or ‘hour’ is the death of Jesus.

That is when a new temple comes: when Jesus becomes the sacrificial lamb slaughtered for the sin of the world thereby becoming the temple of God for the world – the place of God’s blessing, God’s listening, God’s feeding and sustaining grace.

And now the big surprise – the Messiah …

…, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

For the first time Jesus uses those words, “I AM”, declaring himself to be none other than the Lord Almighty himself right there.

Something happens in her now. The spring is sprung inside her and she is different. She is drinking in his words; his presence; his promise; his acceptance of her, his love for her, and it changes everything.

The disciples come back. She exits – fast!

She puts her water jar down and rushes back to the town full of the very people from whom she has been hiding for years; the very people who have probably inflicted untold shame in a million words, actions and behaviours of pure exclusion….but she does not care!

The poison is gone from her. She is not looking for revenge or even humble confession of wrong from them. She obviously no longer needs their approval or acceptance either. She now wants the best for them.

She has moved from fear and hiding to love residing within and flowing out.

Would you like to move from fear and hiding to love residing and flowing? I do.

Do you need this grace today? I do.

You need to let him show you your poison water, though.

Only then will you know the spring springing in you and from you.

You are in the right place to know his grace.

This is not the last time Jesus will thirst. He will say “I thirst” again – from that brutal cross in the scorching heat of the noon-day sun.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death. Psalm 22

He will take the ‘worm-wood and the poison gall’ so you are freed once and for all.

She was surprised. Are you?

She was transformed from grudge and guilt to gift of grace, from hanging on to her pain and shame to having it washed out of her by this torrents of acceptance and love in this man.

He is here. He is again showing you he is the great “I AM’; the real Saviour of you for now and for your dying and rising.

Better lay that water jar of poison water down and rink in this Living Water.

“… the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to new life.”





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