Summary: We must tend, we must nurture, we must care for the conditions in our lives into which the fresh, bubbling spring of the Holy Spirit flows.
John 4:4-15 August 21, 2011
Do you remember these (show picture of school water fountain)? Back in the day before bottled water, pop machines in every nook and cranny, water coolers with disposable triangular paper cups, or personal water bottles clipped to backpacks and carried around with us everywhere, we just had these. I remember junior high, phys-ed class. Now, I was one of those kids who always played hard. And I sweated a lot. And I remember when the teacher called a break, or the class was over, and we ran to the old rusty fountain for a drink. I remember standing in line, waiting, tapping my foot, wondering when the kids in front of me would finally stop drinking so my turn would come. I remember us saying all sorts of dumb things: leave some for the fishes!, don’t drink Canada Dry!, even hey – get your mouth off the tap. Really, what we were saying was hurry up and finish so I can have my turn – I’m thirsty!
Then, when I finally got to the fountain, and turned the knob, there was always this moment of anticipation – hoping the water would actually flow up and not just sort-of gurgle out around the spout, hoping it would be cold. I remember the few times the water was actually really cold and the flow strong, and being able to drink deeply, gulping down the fresh water for as long as I wanted, until I could lift my head, wipe the drips from my chin, and step away satisfied. Those were good moments… and they were few. Most of the time, it was a lukewarm trickle with six or seven other kids behind me yelling leave some for the fishes!
I’ve never, though, known what it really means to thirst. I mean, to be desperate for water. Most of us are rarely more than a few steps away from a drink, and we usually have a dizzying array of tasty alternatives with which to satisfy our need for liquid – I have an old fridge in my basement, four steps from my computer where I’m sitting to write this sermon, and in it right now are 38 different cold beverage options should I suddenly feel a desire for a drink. And that’s on top of the cup of coffee sitting right in front of me.
So it is tough for me to relate to Jesus in John 4. He’s been walking all morning, through a desert, and He is tired and thirsty when He sits down to rest at Jacob’s well in Samaria. I imagine He had carried some water in an animal skin, but probably just enough to get Him to this resting place. John 4:6-7 tells us, Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, Please give me a drink.
He needed water – the physical body was tired and thirsty, water was the obvious remedy.
But of course, and as we saw last week, Jesus was ever mindful of not only the physical need but also of the spiritual need, and that is where the conversation heads:
9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?
10 Jesus replied, If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.
11 But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket, she said, and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?
13 Jesus replied, Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.
15 Please, sir, the woman said, give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.
Jesus entices her into a deeper conversation with the offer of living water, which she would have heard and understood as physical water that was flowing, like a stream or a spring or a river – not water that was standing like in a well or carried in an animal skin all morning long and now warm and stale. He is a stranger, she lives here and knows there are no springs or streams or rivers. What is He talking about? What is this living water? Jesus doesn’t concretely answer that question, but He does describe it: those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.