Picture Jesus: The Living Water
March 17, 2010
Updated March 3, 2022
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This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: John 4:26, John 4:39-42
Sermon submitted by Rev. John Van Schepen
On December 26, 2004 an enormous earthquake under the Indian Ocean fractured the crust of the earth and caused a tsunami. A huge wave of water, 80 feet high in some locations, came crashing down on the shores of many countries such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Thousands and thousands of people were killed. Can you imagine that! Too much water can certainly kill people. On the other hand, if we do not get enough water to drink we will get thirsty and we will die. Like food and air, water is a physical necessity of our lives; without it we will die.
We have more than physical needs in our lives. We need peace and happiness; fulfillment and satisfaction; we need to be connected to others -like the song says, "We all need somebody to lean on." Even though someone may be alive physically, they may be dead emotionally, socially, and psychologically. Many people are dying of thirst in these areas of their lives.
Mention the name "Columbine" and most of us will remember TV pictures of two young boys entering a school in Colorado carrying guns with which they killed many of their school mates. I'm not for a moment trying to undermine the horror of their actions, but we must not forget how these two boys had suffered isolation and shaming for months; how they began to die emotionally and socially when their classmates pushed their faces into the mashed potatoes on their plates in the school cafeteria.
The need to be connected socially has driven thousands of others to Internet chat rooms in a desperate attempt to meet with people. There they will spend untold hours with people whose real names they do not know, people they have never met except perhaps seeing their faces on a little computer screen in a dimly lit room.
There is an even deeper level of thirst in our lives that is desperately crying out for relief today. It is the thirst of our spiritual lives. This thirst can not be satisfied with natural water, not even the best bottled water money can buy. Neither will having friends, or a good job, a loving wife and three children fill this thirst within you. In order to quench this need, Jesus says we need what He calls, "Living Water." Listen again to verses 13 and 14. "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
There are at least three things we can learn from this passage: First, why do we need this living water? Second, from where does it come? What is the source of this living water? Third, what is this water for? What is the effect of this living water in our lives?
First then, why do we need this water? Please notice that when Jesus says, "everyone" he means we all need it. I do, so do you, and you, and everyone around you. If we want to quench the inner thirst in our lives we must drink of this water. Whether we are rich or poor, female or male, old or young, religious or not, fair skinned or not. It matters not a whit! We all have this inner thirst and we all need the living water that Jesus offers.
We may not always recognize it as such because we think we have all our bases covered in life. Perhaps we are at a stage in life similar to the man of whom Jesus speaks in Luke 12:19 who said to himself, "You have plenty, of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." Notice also that Almighty God in verse twenty assigned him the name, "fool." There are any number of ways by which we may fool ourselves but the fact is Jesus offers us living water because he knows that deep down we are thirsty.
This Samaritan woman knew she had a physical thirst. That's why she came to the well in the first place. She knew that without water she would die, especially in that hot, arid, climate.
I believe it is safe to say that she also was suffering deeply from social and psychological thirst. When Jesus asked her for a drink she immediately brought up one of the social barriers that was well known to her, the barrier of racism. "How is it that you, a Jew, are asking me a Samaritan, for a drink?" John reminds us that according to their traditions they did not associate with one another.
Have you experienced that thirst because your last name isn't quite like those around you? Or because your speech still carries a slight accent? Or because you aren't in on the jokes being proffered? Racial thirst can drain the life right out of us in a heart beat.
There were other social and emotional needs that had left this Samaritan woman's life dry and dusty as the road she was walking on. All the women of the town went to the well in the cool of the morning talking about their children or sharing a joke as they got the day's supply of water but not this woman. Only when it was noon, when the sun was blazing down on her, the time middle eastern people take their siesta, when the roads were empty so that no one would spit on her or curse her, only then did she dare go for water. After all she was an adulterer, a slut, far below the standards of the rest of the other women.
Jesus knew that, yet he was waiting for her. When Jesus and the disciples arrived at the village the disciples went ahead to get food but Jesus intentionally sat down by the well. He had an appointment to keep with a woman who was dying of thirst. When she arrived Jesus asked her for a drink. When she hesitated because of her social barriers he offered her a remedy, "living water." But she just didn't get it. When Jesus mentioned water, all she could think about was the water in the well. So she asks, "How will you get this water? You don't even have a bucket and the well is deep."
She thinks she knows what she needs to quench her thirst but it is clear from Jesus' words that she really doesn't. "If you drink this water, Jesus says, you will be thirsty again tomorrow, but the water I want to give you will quench your thirsts forever."
"Wow! Magical water! How cool is that!" This could be the ticket to satisfy all the needs of her life, she thinks. No more coming back to this lousy well; no more suffering the abuse of my neighbors looking down their long, turned up noses at me. Pour it on, whoever you are! She thinks to herself.
Like her, we also think we know what we need to fix our lives. Wow! if I could only get that new car; if only we had a bigger house; if I just made a little more money; if we could take one of those dreamy vacations to Hawaii or Acapulco; if the stock market would just move the right way. Then, maybe, then we wouldn't have to put up with that cranky neighbor across the street; we wouldn't have to worry about being fired by the boss we don't like; we wouldn't worry about retirement.... So we go through life dreaming our magical dreams. But do we realize that all we are doing is going back to our own wells in a vain attempt to satisfy our thirst souls?
"Just a minute," says Jesus. "Go get your husband and then come back here." Jesus wants to give her his living water but he knows the black holes of sin in her life that have to be dealt with before her life can hold that living water. He knows the issues in her life that are causing her life leak like a sieve. And he knows the root cause of these issues in her life, sin, separation from Almighty God.
For a moment the woman is frozen to the spot. Should she get angry because Jesus is getting too personal? Should she lie because it's none of his business? She looks Jesus in the eye and says, "I have no husband." A half truth, reminiscent of the language of the old serpent in the Garden long ago when he said to Eve, "God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God...." "You're right," says Jesus, "The fact is you've had five and the man you're living with now is not your husband either."
Jesus knows her life, utterly, just as he knows mine and yours. Jesus tells it like it is. Sin is sin. This is no time for playing games. Sin is a big deal to God because sin separates us from God, from each other, and even destroys our own identity. Jesus knows that. When this woman tries to change the subject by asking, "Who's right about the worship wars, the Jews or the Samaritans. Jesus answers, "The time is come, to worship God in Spirit and in truth." He is saying, "Look, let's not worry about them but let's talk about you getting straight with God and about you worshipping Him."
The woman says, "OK, but I know for that to happen I need the Messiah, I need a Savior. When he comes he will explain it all." What she is saying is both profound and crucial. She is admitting that when it comes to the sin in her life, and when it comes to getting her life straightened out with God there is only one solution and that is God himself. Jesus answer, "I who speak to you, I am he."
Jesus claims for himself that great name by which God had long ago revealed himself to the people of Israel when he spoke to Moses from a burning bush. Remember that time? Remember when Moses said when the people of Israel ask me what is his name, then what shall tell them? God said to Moses, "I am who I am. Say to the Israelites, "I am" has sent you."
Suddenly the Samaritan woman sees and she believes! Jesus is the well of living water. He is the source of eternal life. What Jesus said makes sense. "Whoever drinks the water that I give him will never thirst; the water I give him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life." By driving her to see her sin and revealing who he is, the Messiah, the covenant keeping God, Jesus enables this woman to receive forgiveness and the gift of living water, the Holy Spirit whom he offers. That moment she acknowledged her sinfulness and reclaimed her true humanity as a child of the Lord.
Jesus! Only Jesus can provide the living water that washes away our sins. Only Jesus can satisfy our needs and quench our thirst; not just for things that are temporary but for that which is eternal. Anything else that gets thrown at you today is only counterfeit. Be it astrologers, New Agers with their crystals, or our society that is awash in sexual perversion of every sort and chasing after the god of material happiness.
Not long ago someone on TV said, "There is no such thing as cheating; it all depends whether or not you are caught." Don't be fooled my friend. Don't be deceived by the emptiness, meaninglessness of desperate house wives, wife swapping and other shows that TV is throwing at you. Jesus looks at our lives and calls sin, sin and points us to the truth of God.
But maybe you are thinking, "Does it really make any difference?" Look at the dramatic change of which we read in verses twenty eight to thirty. The outcast woman becomes an evangelist. When she ran back to the people of the town she left her water bucket behind because she had been filled with the living water of God's love. No longer did she hide from others in shame and humiliation but she began telling them about Jesus.
What difference did it make? Look at verse 39, "Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony." If there is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who is found can you imagine the joy in heaven that day caused by the changed lives in that village? What Jesus said had become true, "The living water of God's love that she had received from him was now gushing up bringing eternal life to many others."
There's an old song that says it well, "There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel's veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains." The cross is God's own fountain of living water -wet and wild, refreshing, spontaneous, leaping and gushing for all eternity. Come to the cross today and drink deeply of the gracious forgiveness offered there to you. Claim the great promise of God's Word, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come" (II Corinthians 5:17).
It is that fountain of living water that is held before us in the sacrament of baptism. The water not only represents our cleansing by Jesus blood, but that water is living water that represents the Holy Spirit poured out upon us at Pentecost to renews us every day. Long after the water has dried from our heads we may be assured that the Holy Spirit leads us and directs us; that he empowers us and encourages us and enlivens us to live the way of Jesus. Be assured today that this living water can and will sustain us through the driest times and the weariest days.
Is your soul parched from thirst today? Is your spirit longing for a place of acceptance and healing? Do you have black holes in your life through which your life is draining away everyday? Jesus says, "Come to me, come to the well spring of life and received God's gift of living water. It's yours for the asking."
And then go into the world as the living Fountain rises up within the well of your personality for you have now become "Christ's ambassador, as though God were making his appeal through you" (II Corinthians 5:20). Go and tell others of the Living Water so that they too might be reconciled to God and give the angels in heaven cause to rejoice just as they did long ago over that Samaritan village.
The following is an outline that can be used if a church has the option of using PowerPoint/projected images.
Picture Jesus: the Living Water
1. Why do we need this living water?
-the bottomless black holes of sin cause our needs.
2. What is the source of this living water?
-Jesus is the Living Water. We must put our faith in Him.
3. What is the effect, the power, of this water in our lives?
-The black holes of sin are removed.
-We will point others to the Fountain of Life.
We see this water in Baptism
- It points to the cleansing blood of Jesus
- It points to the renewing power of the Spirit Jesus invites us all to come and drink of Him.
Suggested Order of Worship
Call to Worship
Leader: All who thirst come to the water.
Come all who are weary; Come all who yearn for forgiveness. The Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ has washed over us, And our gracious and holy God beckons and blesses us. Drink deeply of these living waters.
People:Glory to You, O Lord, Glory to you.
Greeting: "Living Lord Jesus, we pray that you will pour out your Holy Spirit. May your grace and peace rest upon us and may we be strengthened by your Word and Spirit as we draw near to you in this worship service. Amen
Suggested: "O Lord, you're Beautiful."
Praise the Name of Jesus"
Song before Scripture reading
"I heard the Voice of Jesus Say" PH #488
Song after the message:
"In Christ Alone"
God of all times and places, in Jesus Christ lifted up on the cross, You opened for us the path to eternal life. Thank you Lord.
Grant that we, being born of the water and the Spirit, May joyfully serve you in newness of life, and faithfully walk in Your holy ways through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore. Amen
"Let there be Glory and Honor"
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