The first time I preached this text I focused on this lady’s sin. It’s a prooftext Jesus doesn’t seem to be on board with living together without being married. Some folks got uncomfortable. It’s safer to preach against the sins that we only see outside our walls. But whether or not you see that stuff, statistics don’t just go away by announcing that we’re a conservative congregation. Some of you have had abortions. Some of you struggle with same sex attraction. I’m afraid to ask about your browser history. It isn’t just society that needs Jesus. It’s us.
So the second time I preached this text, I tried to find Jesus comforting the sinner. But I couldn’t quite shake the feeling he was heckling her the whole time. Every response she has is biting. She comes to see He has power, but never really finds mercy for her sins, and nobody got any water to drink. Not even Jesus, who asked for it. That time, I was the uncomfortable one. So I did what any decent pastor would do. I avoided it altogether and preached from the Old Testament. Moses is tired of the people complaining and fighting. So the Lord tells him to hit a rock with a stick to shut them up. There is a rock, from whose side comes living water, struck to put an end to the sinful rebellion of God’s people, and that rock was Christ. He was struck. He was beaten. He was crucified and pierced for you, and from His side comes water. The Lord was among His sinners to save them.
This is the third time, and I think it’s a gift to look at a text more often. I think, more than anyone, the most uncomfortable person in the room, more than any of us, is that woman at the well. Each time she recoils and rebuffs and retorts she really only shows how much she doesn’t want to be there. Give me a drink. And she can only respond with the words she must have been told so many times before. She’s not Jewish enough. She’s Samaritan. The Jews wouldn’t deal with her and she knew it. She’s a second class citizen.
But it’s not about that. Jesus isn’t berating her. He’s pointing to something bigger. There’s living water here. It’s free. It’s for her. But she’s still so beat down she can’t see it. Knock it off. You’re insane, there’s no bucket. There’s no rope. As great as you think you are, you’re no Jacob. Stop teasing me. This well comes from our father Jacob. I have a right to call on God too. Because she’s heard too many times that she can’t. Nobody told her more than what was wrong with looking for God on a mountain He never promised to be on. The difference between the jews and the samaritans was that the jews went to the temple to worship. They heard the promise of where God would be. In the spilling of the blood on the altar. They never told her she could come too. She just knows that the God she cried to on the mountain hasn’t answered her prayers for peace. And based on how she’s treated by the ones who go to temple, the God they pray to in there doesn’t seem too interested in her either.
Don’t you see why she’s so uncomfortable? She has to work herself up every time she goes out in public. She hears what she is whenever she goes out. She’s not jewish enough. Not married enough. She would rather not go out to that well anymore. How can I not come back here anymore? She actually confesses it. Give me the water so I don’t have to go out in public anymore. I don’t want to have to come here anymore. I don’t want to be what they stare at. I don’t want to be what they talk about. I don’t want to be the object lesson to nice little boys and girls anymore. Because the actual sin is the one thing she’s the least willing to talk about. You get explanations with every response until the last. “Go, call your husband, and come here.” Not the first 5. This guy, who you built a home with, whose husband is he? That’s the real question.
Jesus asked for water and never got any. He asked after her husband and never got an answer either. Jesus asks after everything she needs and never gets it. She can’t give it. Sin is still sin. It break stuff. Salvation did come from the temple of the jews, but Jesus is there to do more than correct her about her church going habits. He’s there to give. He doesn’t wait until she feels appropriately sorry. Her biting answers toward Jesus say plenty about how she really saw herself. He just starts promising living water to bitter sinners. He’s so blunt that the rest of us get as uncomfortable as the woman does. There’s no condition. Just ask. It’s here. It’s free. We’d like to imagine it’s because Jesus isn’t being as polite as we imagine, but really it’s deeper. The whole conversation points out a truth we’d rather not see.
Nobody’s saved by measuring their shortcomings, whether they be the ones acceptable by the public or not. We’re saved by Jesus, the rock. We’re saved by the living water that comes from His side. He shows up. He dies. He saves. And it’s for you too. There are no conditions. It’s here. It’s free.
For the sins you hide away, for the statistics you’ve become on purpose or on accident, for your guilt, for you, peace. Jesus died for you. Your sins are forgiven you. The abortions are forgiven. The attractions you struggle with are forgiven. Your browser history is forgiven. You are forgiven. You are holy. You are baptized. You have the living water promised. You are nothing less that what happened to you at this font. Clean. Forgiven. Alive. Free. To worship in Spirit and truth is to know the Father seeks such people as us. That He sends His Son to redeem us. His Spirit to wash us in the font. It’s to know that peace isn’t someday, it’s here. It’s now. It’s yours, because the one we speak of is Jesus.