John 4:5-42, Lent 3 A, March 23, 2014
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
A tough life
Consider Samantha. As she was growing up, she was so hopeful about what her future might look like. She looked forward to having a husband and children. So, on her wedding day, she was elated. Her honeymoon period was spectacular. She thought that she was living the Samaritan dream. She and her first husband had a few good years together, but she could not carry a child to term.
After a few too many miscarriages, he left her. Divorce in that time wasn’t an equal thing. This man did not leave Samantha with anything. She was left to beg on the street or resort to prostitution. Her perfect life was overturned in an instant. Now, all that she could feel were betrayal and despair.
Then she met a man who sympathized for her. He married her. She thought that she had another chance at the perfect life, only for him to die suddenly a year later. Once again, Samantha was left without a safety net. Once again, Samantha could only feel despair.
Samantha’s life continued to worsen. Each time that she married, she briefly hoped that her life could get better. Yet five times her husbands either died or divorced her. Five times, she was left to beg or sell her body. Five times she was racked with grief, despair, anger, and betrayal. Growing her family was her greatest goal in life, a goal that was never accomplished.
Now, Samantha is empty. She has no hope in life, and she can’t stand to see how the younger women in her town are so giddy with life. She used to go with the young women each morning to get water from Jacob’s well, but she can’t do it anymore. The women are a constant reminder of what her life will never be. Samantha is bitter.
So, she gets her water in the heat of the midday sun. She has to walk a mile from her home to the well in the hottest part of the day. Retrieving the water is not easy at this time of day, but at least she isn’t disgusted by the chipper women. Most days when she makes the trek out to the well, she doesn’t see anyone, and that is just how she likes it.
The man at the well
Then one day, as Samantha approached the well, she saw a man sitting on the edge of the well. She could tell that he was a Jew, even though most Jews went the long way around Samaria to avoid meeting people like her. She didn’t want to talk to this man, but she needed water, so she went to the well. She walked right up and started to retrieve water, ignoring this strange man. Then he said to her, “Give me a drink.”
Samantha was taken aback. Who is this man, and why is he so bold to make this demand? He was a Jew, someone that she was not supposed to communicate with, let alone share water. She told him, “We are from different religions and different countries. How dare you ask a favor of me?” At this point, Samantha just wanted to get her water and go. Why must she help this foreign man?
This man remained calm and simply responded, “If you knew who I am and what I can do, you would ask me for living water.” Samantha thought, “Living water, that is like a stream of water, right? There aren’t any streams near here.” So she said to him, “You can’t get the water out of this well. How can you get this living water?” This man said, “I have water that will quench your thirst so that you will never be thirsty again. The water that I give sustains for eternal life.”
Wow, now Samantha is intrigued. This man says that he can provide water so special that she would never have to walk two miles round trip in the heat of the day. She wouldn’t have to be embarrassed or belittled by the other women in town. This living water could remove so much of the discomfort in her life. Samantha told this man, “Please give me this water so that I will never have to come here again.”
Then a strange request. He said to her, “Go and bring your husband back here.” Samantha is taken aback. Why would he want to talk to her boyfriend after he has already talked to her. Shocked she said, “I don’t have a husband.” Then this man responded, “You are right. You have had five husbands, yet the man you are living with is not one of them.”
Samantha thought, “How could he know? I have never met him before. How could he possibly know how many husbands I have had? Does he know about all of my heartache, my sorrow, my betrayal? How could he know?” She said out loud, “You must be a prophet. I have worshipped on this mountain, but you worship in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Miss, the place of worship will no longer matter as long as you worship the one God, my Father, in spirit and truth.”
Amazed, Samantha exclaimed, “I know that the Messiah is coming!” Jesus said, “I am he.” Samantha considered, “I am. That is the name of the Lord. He must be telling the truth!” She was enlivened again. Somehow, meeting this Messiah brought the life back into Samantha. She brightened up, leaving the gloom of her past life behind her as she rushed back to her hometown. She even left her water jug behind - she didn’t need it anymore. She had to tell everyone she knew about this wonderful man!
She shouted for all to hear, “Everyone! You need to come see a man who must be the Messiah! He knew everything about me!” The people were astonished by her words, but they were more surprised by her demeanor. No longer did Samantha look bitter, dull, and empty. Now she was smiling, excited, and engaging. Much of the town followed Samantha to the well as she continued to excitedly recount everything that happened there.
When the Samaritans met Jesus, they also were overcome with emotion. They invited him to stay with them, and he did so for two days. Many of the people in the town came to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. His words inspired them, and his talk of living water gave them hope. They too wanted to experience the new joy that Samantha found in Jesus. Many of the townsfolk proclaimed to Samantha, “We thank you for introducing us to Jesus, whom we know is the Savior of the world.”
Just as Jesus provided living water to the Samaritan woman at the well, may Jesus also provide this living water to us in baptism. Amen.