Home Resources Sermons Recent THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT – MARCH 19, 2017
THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT – MARCH 19, 2017 PDF Print E-mail

TEXT: JOHN 4:5-30, 39-42; ROM. 5:1-8; EX. 17:1-7
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Is the Lord among us or not?” If He is, if we are receiving Him who is the water of life, why are we not perfectly satisfied? Why do we thirst after harmful things? Why are we constantly tempted to drink from the shallow wells of this world?

(Exodus 17:1-7). “Is the Lord among us or not?” That is the question the Israelites asked at Massah and Meribah (meaning “testing” and “rebellion”). Newly freed from bondage to Pharaoh the Lord had sweetened bitter water for them at Marah (Ex. 15). He had rained down manna and quail for them to eat (Ex. 16). There was so much power in what they had witnessed in Egypt. There was so much promise in what God had in store for them. There was so much love and blessing in His daily provision for them through His servant Moses. But, the people of Israel were complaining again, for they were thirsty again. “Is the Lord among us or not?”

They quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Thirst is a powerful desire. It can cause far stronger actions than grumbling. So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And drink they did! Those grumbling, ready-to-stone-Moses people failed the Lord’s testing. It was they who tested Him with their rebellion. Yet He mercifully gave them water to drink. The Lord who spoke to Moses there in the desert was Christ. The spiritual rock who accompanied Israel and from which they drank was Christ (I Cor. 10:1-5).

Some fourteen centuries later the Christ became flesh. St. John records Him sitting by Jacob’s well in a town of Samaria. At that well, He, himself, is thirsty. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me to drink.” The Samaritan woman said to him, “how is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria? In Jesus’ day rarely did men speak to women in public and it was unheard of for a Jew to speak with a Samaritan. In the 8th Century BC the conquering Assyrians had forced intermarriage in Samaria and Israel viewed them as corrupt.

Jesus desired to give this woman the water of life. She had heard a lot of high sounding promises from men. His response was unlike anything any man had ever said to her 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.” “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become 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.”

Even though she asked Jesus for this living water - she was not yet ready to drink. It was the heat of the day. Yet, in love for this woman Jesus would first made things hotter and dryer for her. “Go, call your husband, and come here” He said. Sin likes to hide. Sin lives by deception. The woman tried to hide failed efforts at quenching her own thirst with a factual yet deceptive answer. “I have no husband.” The Samaritans held to the five books of Moses including the Ten Commandments. She would have known the Sixth Commandment. 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.” Jesus laid open her life and her sin. He used the law like a laser – laying open the root problem.

Sin likes to hide within us – it also likes to blame others outside of us. She seeks to shift the focus to points of contention in the church. In a sense she was asking Israel’s question, “Is the Lord among us or not?” She said, Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus seeps away any diversion with a sweeping statement about worship. 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.”

What an unexpected answer! In clearly revealing her sin His purpose is to give to her – not take from her! His desire is to be giving her living water and eternal life! The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I AM, the one speaking to you.” He spoke to her the very name that He revealed to Moses at the burning bush, I AM (Ex. 3:14). This name for the Lord, I AM, the Samaritans knew from the Pentateuch. Jesus said to her, “I AM, (I the Lord, I the Messiah, the Christ) am the one speaking to you.” I AM!

Dear thirsty people of God; the great I AM comes into your midst today to continue satisfying you with living water. His Law continues to lay open your sinful hearts. Then He gives Himself to drink. And that’s enough! That’s what Jesus meant when He said that the Father is seeking true worshippers who will worship the Father in spirit and truth. True worship is both sin-seeing and Savior-receiving. Worship in spirit and truth is not invented or imagined spirituality apart from the flesh of Christ. In the flesh Jesus said – I am the truth (John 14:6). To worship in truth is to receive Jesus in the flesh. That is why our Lutheran Confessions constantly maintain this point: God does not want to deal with us in any other way than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. Whatever is praised as from the Spirit – without the Word and Sacraments – is the devil himself. (Smalcald Articles III X 9-11).

“Is the Lord among us or not?” Children baptized and confirmed in this house of worship have turned away from Christ’s gifts of forgiveness because they believe God is not among us. Satan chiefly tempts us in the same way. If He were among us, why would the thirst for meaning, the thirst for fulfillment, the thirst for peace, not be completely satisfied?

Our story is the same as that of Israel and of the woman at the well. Like Israel, we are tempted to find fault with God’s provision and thirst after other gods. To satisfy her true thirst Jesus first identified her sin. Many Samaritans from that town later believed in Him as she testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” They invited Jesus to stay with them. He did - speaking God’s Word to them. Faith comes through hearing the speaking of Christ and they ultimately said, we have heard for ourselves and we know that this is the Savior of the world.”

Saviors! They’re all the same – except this one! Secular ones! Spiritual Ones! They all come to promising much but taking more – except this one! If you give enough you can be saved. If you do enough good then you can be saved. Pray five times a day – or at least three. Demonstrate tolerance for everything or carry out Jihad and holy war! Meditate until you achieve pleasure in nothingness or deny all pleasure and sacrifice yourself. Deny success and wealth because they are evil or obey God and He will bless you with health and wealth.

False saviors are like that – they tell you what you need to do in order to please God. Do this and god will love you. But do you really want a savior who needs you to earn peace with Him? This false understanding of god leads to a false understanding of worship. It is why many people think all religions are basically the same. They are! Except this one!

I AM - the Savior of the world - does not gather you at this well in order to have you quench His thirst. He gathers you to give you Himself – the living water of His forgiveness, life and salvation. Oh, He bids you to go and sin no more but that is not to earn His love. Rather He wants you to live in daily repentance receiving the great things – the forgiving, healing work still going on through the waters He washed over you at the font. He wants you to remain alive.

As Jesus gave this woman Himself, as she was receiving in faith the water of life – she began to well-up and overflow to others – “Come and see this man…can he be the Christ.” As she came to the well thirsting for life, so you come with real needs as well. You know weariness – and thirst for rest and renewed zeal. You know pride and thirst for true humility. You know inner disappointments and thirst for joyful contentment. You know worry and thirst for calm trust. You know doubts and thirst for unshakable confidence. You know failings in love and service and thirst for new hearts. You have such thirst because the living water gives you holy desires – desires that would never well up in the same way without the great I AM telling you all things.

“Is the Lord among us or not?” He was fully present with this woman at the sixth hour. On the sixth hour of another day – the water of life cried out “I thirst” under the heat of God’s wrath. No one struck the rock-hewn tomb in which he was placed but it was opened wide showing that he is a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

He is in your midst this morning – not with demands – but with a pure and healing fountain. Having suffered for your guilt He comes restoring your innocence. With water from the well of salvation he refreshes those who thirst. You know the gift of God and who it is that says to you, not “Give me a drink,” but “shed for you for the remission of sins. Drink of it all of you.”

It was purely a gift to the woman at the well. As He gave Himself to her, she became the bride of one more husband, the heavenly Bridegroom. He refreshed her with the water of life! He presented her to Himself holy and blameless, without spot or blemish! She went and told others, come and see!

“Is the Lord among us or not?” Yes, He is! He comes not for pretend sinners, but for real sinners. He comes for you! He continues to come giving you relief from dried-up hopes and dreams. He is the water of life that will carry you right through the dust of death. There are thirsty people all around to whom we can say, “come and see!” “O Come, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of the faith who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The woman at the well was His joy! You are His joy! For you He endured the cross scorning its shame. For you He comes now with living water. He is the Savior of the world and He loves you and He loves you and He loves – you His holy and spotless Bride. AMEN.


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