Have you gotten caught up in the madness? Not the madness of life, but the madness of the annual NCAA college basketball tournament. We’re in the midst of the biggest basketball weekend of the year. Four straight days of all day continuous basketball. Some of those games were hosted just blocks away here in downtown Milwaukee. Maybe you got caught up in the madness by attended them, or watching hours of games, or filling out a tournament bracket or two for your office pool or at school.
If you’ve watched any of the tournament you’ve no doubt seen any number of athletes running, jumping, diving, shooting, sweating and giving it their all. You also would have seen them returning to the bench thirsty. Behind each bench are a couple of big blue colored water coolers filled with PowerAde. The players are handed cups filled with the thirst-quenching energy drink filled with the necessary electrolytes and vitamins that are needed to help them rehydrate and revitalize so they can keep playing at their best.
In life, you often find yourself weary and tired, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. While there are many energy drinks that can help you get through the day, wouldn’t it be great if there was something that refreshed you and energized you spiritually? Jesus offered this kind of eternal energy drink to a woman in today’s Bible reading and he offers it to you too.
The reading starts out with Jesus and his disciples traveling from Judea to Galilee in order to avoid rising opposition from the Pharisees who were angry with Jesus’ success in preaching. They were traveling through the territory between Judea and Galilee called Samaria. If we back up one more verse in the reading, we hear this, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” This probably wasn’t a statement in regards to a geographic necessity to go through Samaria. There were multiple routes up to Galilee in the north. In fact, many Jews would often try to avoid traveling through Samaria, opting for an out of the way route because of the enmity that existed between Jews and Samarians. Long story short, Samaritans were former Jews who intermarried with other nations and desecrated worship of the true God by mixing in a bunch of false worship and idol practices. This created a dynamic of hatred between Jews and Samaritans that they didn’t associate with one another. Yet you still hear that Jesus had to go through Samaria. Why? As we find out, he had an important meeting with a lost soul.
Jesus stopped at a well outside the Samaritan town of Sychar. It was about noon; the middle of a hot Middle Eastern day. The disciples had gone into the village to buy some lunch leaving Jesus by himself at the well. Not long after sitting down, a Samaritan woman from the town came out to draw water. Now understand something about this scenario. Water was important, but gathering it wasn’t the most glamorous job in the world. In most cases, the women of the town came out together in the late afternoon or evening, or early in the morning, times of the day when it was cooler. But this woman came by herself during the hottest part of the day.
This woman must have been or felt like an outcast. As Jesus later acknowledges about her, she’s been through five husbands and the man she was currently with wasn’t her husband either. I don’t know and we’re not told whether her husband left her making her feel broken and unwanted, or whether she was a loose woman who easily got bored with guys and went through men like a person with a cold goes through tissues. Whatever the situation though, this woman was all alone and in need of something.
Add to the situation that she comes to the well and there’s a Jewish man there who starts up a conversation with her. Remember, Jews and Samaritans don’t associate with one another. Secondly, it was culturally taboo for a man, especially a rabbi like Jesus, to speak with a woman in a private setting like this without her husband there. So, Jesus’ simple question, “Will you give me a drink,”was met with a hesitant response, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”
Jesus was willing to toss out the rules for this woman. He broke down norms and went out of his way to reach this woman who needed him. He offers her living water. The woman thinks he’s talking about really fresh earthly water. But then Jesus explains the kind of water he wants to share with her. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”Jesus turned the whole situation around. He wanted to offer her something that would truly change her life. He no longer wanted her to give him a drink, but instead he wanted to give to her, a hurting, spiritually dry, broken soul, a drink of living water that would take her thirst away forever.
Do you know what’s really amazing about this? Jesus comes to you in the same way. In a lot of ways, you are like this Samaritan woman. Your sin makes you an enemy of God. God despises sin. Naturally, you want to live life on your own terms without God creeping in on you. Yet even though God should rightfully avoid you, because of his great love he has to come to you to bring you back to him.
Like the Samaritan woman, you have issues in your life. You struggle with sin. You have things in your past that you’d rather not share with others or talk about. There are times where you don’t feel like you are accepted, that you don’t belong among family or friends, or among a group of believers, a church, or even like you’re not worthy to have a relationship with God. Yet Jesus comes to you.
You can be spiritually thirsty. Worn out from agonizing over your sins. Spiritually depleted. Tired of the daily struggle against your sinful desires. Weary from dealing with the sinful actions of others. Living with a burdened conscience. Longing to be restored, revitalized, brought to life. Sin leaves your soul dry and dead. Yet Jesus offers you living water.
Jesus went out of his way and took a trip that he didn’t have to in order to find you. He, the Lord God, stepped down from heaven to live on this earth as a part of his creation. He lived a life like you and me that left him hungry, tired, and thirsty. Jesus faced the temptations to sin, he knew heartache and rejection. He did this so that he could find you and offer to you the eternal energy drink that only he can offer, living water. He offers this living water to all people regardless of race, or background, or how unworthy a person might be. He comes to give them life, to fill them with living water.
What’s so great about the water Jesus offers? As Jesus told the woman at the well, the water he offered her would take away the thirst of whoever drank it and would lead to eternal life. That’s some pretty powerful water! It’s powerful because of what that living water is.
Perhaps you’ve looked at the label on an energy drink to see what was in it. You might find things like various vitamins, caffeine, sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, and so on. Those ingredients give your body the refreshment and boost that you need.
What was in this living water that Jesus offered to the woman that would give her eternal life and quench her thirst forever? Just look at the label of God’s Word. The ingredients include the gospel message of a Savior, Jesus, who paid the price for your sins and removes sin and guilt from you. Jesus was the promised Messiah, the promised Savior, who’s coming the woman longed for, and he appeared to her, to you. Mixed in with this message of a Savior are the ingredients of forgiveness, an overflowing heap of grace, and the blood of Jesus.
Think about times when you get really thirsty like when you’re working out in the yard during a hot day, after you’ve just exercised or gone for a long run, or you’ve eaten something really salty or spicy and you just want something to drink! Dehydration can leave you worn out and weary, crabby and unpleasant, and ultimately lead to death.In the same way, your spiritual dehydration leaves you depressed and despairing, greedy and hurtful, full of hatred and anger, and in the end leads to eternal death in hell.
So, Jesus offers you a drink. He offers you the good news of the forgiveness and salvation that he won for you. When you hear this message, when you drink of this water through faith in Jesus, it brings comfort and relief to your weary soul. You are forgiven. Your conscience can rest easy. Your doubts are dissolved. Jesus died to take away your guilt. He died to make you holy. He died to welcome you as God’s child. He did this for you.
Isn’t that refreshing? This is the comfort and peace that dried-up souls need to hear. There are a lot of other options of “drinks” that the world will try to sell you on that they claim will offer you what you need for life. But only Jesus, the Messiah, can truly satisfy your thirst.
As you live each day, running in the madness that we call the race of life, don’t forget to replenish your soul with daily drink of the living water of the gospel. Drink often. Drink deeply. Never thirst again.
Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI (www.gracedowntown.org) on March 19, 2017