Where Do You Get The Living Water? John 4:4-15
By DPE March 3rd, 2002
Introduction: Looking for spot to sit down at the airport. I was tired from a very full morning at the church. Just wanted to be left alone to read. There were a hundred of empty seats in the area I picked. No one was anywhere near. Nothing worse than telling people in a crowded airport you are a minister. Either the place clears. Or people line up for counseling. I was really enjoying my silence when I noticed a middle age woman walking toward me. She looked like a buzzard circling overhead. With hundreds of available seats to chose from she chose the one next to me. I buried my head deep in a book hoping she wouldn't talk to me. After five minutes she blurted out, "I've got to find a dentist in Atlanta." She talked me into a coma. I did not escape until my plane boarded.
The Lesson: In our lesson Jesus was tired and worn out too. He was in the middle of seventy-mile trek from Jerusalem to Galilee. Don't you love the humanity in the lesson? Jesus gets tired and needs to sit down. The text says Jesus picked an isolated spot by the well. No one would bother him by the well. At least he didn't think so. People only draw water in the early morning hours and the evening. The disciples went into town for food. Then he sees a Samaritan woman walking toward him with a bucket. No rest for the weary. I wonder if he buried his head in the Torah. Unlike me Jesus doesn't ignore the woman. He speaks to her even when he did not have too. Custom would dictate that she wouldn't speak to him.
The Dialogue: What follows is a delightful exchange between Jesus and the woman at the well. Curiously, it is the longest narrative in John's Gospel. He asks her for a drink of water. She wants to know why a Jewish man was talking to a Samaritan woman. Jewish men did not speak to women other than those in their immediate family, much less a Samaritan woman. He tells her that if she knew who he was she would ask him for a drink of water. She then asks how he is going to draw the water without a bucket. There is a debate whether or not he is greater than Jacob. She gives him a-kind-of who do you think you are stares. In the end Jesus offers her living water. Better yet he tells her that she will never be thirsty again if she drinks it. The passage has a playful element to it; because the woman never gets it. This kind of misunderstanding occurs frequently in John's Gospel. Remember Nicodemus. "How can I enter my mother's womb a second time. Here Jesus is talking about her spiritual thirst. But the woman thinks he is talking about the dust in her throat.
The Big Purpose: The story fulfills two important theological purposes for John. 1) John wants us to know that Jesus is the savior of the world. There is a progression in the text that begins in verse 4 and ends in verse 42. It moves from you are a Jew, to you are prophet, to miracle worker, and to you are the savior of the world. 2) John wants us to understand that Jesus is the savior of the whole world. Not just for Jews. Not just for Judah. There is progression from the temple, to a Jewish leader, to Samaria. These two points put flesh on John 3:16-17: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. This was especially important for John's community, where the Jewish- Gentile debate was alive and well.
The Life Connection: Many wonderful insights into our faith can be drawn from the depths of this text. When I dipped my bucket into the well a rich metaphor came up. What came up for me is the idea that the Christian faith is a journey across a desert. Remember our conversion is a lifetime process. It is a journey across a desert. An image: a dirty, dry, sunburned man, a hot desert decorated with the bones of those didn't make it. We set out with great hopes that we will make it. We press on beyond our physical limits. Yet along the way we get tired, worn out, and discouraged. When we can go no further we sit down. Some of you are there right now. You are tired and discouraged. The buzzards are circling overhead even now.
The Good News: However, there is good news for weary travelers like you and me. Jesus is in the desert with you and you don't have to look far to find him. Wherever you are Jesus is there with the water you need. Where there is water there is life. Where there is no water there is no life. Where there is Jesus there is life. Without Jesus there is no life. So there he is with his hands cupped in front of you with the water you need. Do you know where the water comes from? There is a powerful reference in John 20:34. Says in the text that water and blood poured from the side of Jesus when he was run through with a spear. The water comes from the very heart of God. It is living water because it comes from the heart of God. An image: Jesus cups his hands at his side to catch the water. Then he extends his hands to you to drink. What an amazing God we have? The good news then is that you have the water that you need. But you've got to ask for a drink.
What We do? In San Francisco God revealed something powerful to me. This is how many of us live out the journey, however. We take a big gulp and hope it will get us across the desert. We carry a canteen and takes sip along the way. It's like coming to church on Sunday and getting our drink and then heading out into the world. Neither however is very satisfying. Especially when there is an endless stream of water running through us.
Most Amazing Thing: What you need is already inside of you. All the water we need is already there. We don't have to take the big gulp or carry the canteen. In fact, the word here in the text is means the water is leaping up inside of us. It's a bubbling stream.
(Isa 61:1-2 NIV) "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn…"
I read this and my chest begins to tighten, my shoulders get stiff, my anxiety level doubles. How will I do these things God has called me to do. Then I read…
(Isa 61:10-11 NIV) I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.
The idea then is that everything we need for the journey is inside us. We must remember it is God doing the work and not us. God gives us the resources we need. But we want have what we need if we don't tap into them.
Our Tendency: Our tendency is to see God as something distinct from us. We go to God to get what we need and then we go on with our life. The key is our beginning to see ourselves being in God's presence all of the time. That we become one with God when Christ comes to live in us.
Too Abstract? How about this then? The water is that deep part inside of you where God lives. It is the place where your true identity in God is found. It is that place in you that names you a beloved child of God. It is far below your self-image. It is far below your sorrows. It is far below your fears. It is a deep stream. And to get to it you've got get down below that self-image and way down below those hurts to the real presence of God inside of you to begin living from there.
The Tree Image: I was thinking about all of this when I was sitting outside last Friday. What is that like for us I kept asking myself? The answer was right there in front of me in a redwood that was several hundred feet tall. Those redwoods have an extensive root system. I thought we've got to sink our roots into the stream of living water running trough us. Then I went to the Bible and found some rich metaphors.
(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV) "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
The Fruits: The result of living from that place is the fruits of the spirit. We worry about how we are going to do it. We worry how we are going to make the changes. When all we must do is spend our time in the presence of God. There is where life comes from. There is the origin of freedom, hope, and creative energy. God doesn't want us to figure it out God wants us to spend our time with him. (Gal 5:22 NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…." The image: a green oasis in the middle of the desert.
The Invitation: The invitation comes to us from Christ to sink our roots into his presence.
My Prayer: My prayer for us is that our desire for God's presence will become great. My prayer is God's presence will become our greatest desire. For it is the source of all freedom, hope, and creativity.
Let us pray. O God, we are thirsty for your living water. We have been drinking from a stagnant pond. The pond is filled with my sorrows, my anxieties, my fears, and my grudges. We long for fresh water - water that will quench our thirst and sustain us for the journey ahead. Increase our desire for you, O God. Don't let us be content to stay on the surface. Bathe our souls in this living water. O God, the desire of our hearts is great.