ďLiving WaterĒ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† November 16, 2014
INTRO:† In 1914 Ernest Shackleton led an expedition that attempted to reach
†† the South Pole.† It was a disaster.† Their ship was caught in ice and crushed.
They made it to an inhabited island, were stranded and faced certain death.†
†† So Shackleton and five others set out in an open lifeboat to go for help.
†† They had to sail 800 miles through some of the most savage seas on the planet.
They were cold and wet, they could never relax for fear of being capsized by the
†† huge waves.† But, wrote Shackleton, ďIt was thirst that took possession of us.Ē
†† ďThe salt water in our clothing and the salt spray that lashed our faces
†† made our thirst grow quickly to a burning pain.Ē††
His men would beg to be given the next dayís small allowance of water,
†† but he had to refuse them.† The last few days were a nightmare.† Shackleton again:
ďThe wind was still strong and the heavy sea forced us to navigate carefully, but any thought
† †of our peril from the waves was buried beneath the consciousness of our raging thirst.Ē
They finally arrived at the location of the settlement they were seeking.
†† They could see it, but for another night and day they couldnít bring boat to land.
†† He said:† ďOur thirst was a torment.Ē† Then they finally came ashore:
ďWe heard a gurgling sound that was sweet music to our ears, and peering around found a stream of fresh water almost at our feet.† A moment later we were down on our knees drinking the pure, ice-cold water in long draughts that put new life into us.† It was a splendid moment.Ē
What is the living water that Christ speaks of in this famous encounter
†† with the woman at the well?
What is this living water that he promises will quench the thirst of the soul,
†† and satisfy the longings of the human spirit?
Jesus says in verse 10, If you knew the gift of God.
†† If you knew who it was who asked you for a drink,
†† then you would ask him, and he would give you living water.
You have to know.† You have to understand before you can ask and drink.
†† So letís seek to know and understand this living water.† Three points.
1.† The surprise of living water.
2.† The satisfaction of living water
3.† The stages of living water
Lastóa story of living water
†† Credit where credit is due:† Sermon on passage by Dr. Timothy Keller.
MP#1† First, the surprise of living water
Everybody in this story was surprised.
The woman was surprised that Jesus would talk to her.† Why are you talking to me?
†† The disciples were also surprised to find him talking to a woman.
Why was Christís conversation with this woman so surprising to everyone?
†† Because he was deliberately smashing through barriers to talk to someone
†† he shouldnít have had anything to do with.† Look at all the barriers.
She was a Samaritan and he was a Jew.†
†† The Samaritans were descendants of Jews who had rejected their spiritual heritage
†† and had married pagans.† They were heretics who had corrupted the
†† true faith of the Hebrew Scriptures by inventing their own religion.
They even built a temple on Mt. Gerizim and claimed it was the true temple.
†† The Jews had destroyed it, but the Samaritans kept up their religion.
No Jew who loved his faith and his people would have taken anything from
†† the hand of a Samaritan.
Another barrier:† she was a woman and he was a man.
†† Woman had an inferior status in the ancient worldóthe Greeks, Romans,
†† pagans, Jews, Samaritansóit didnít make any difference.
A man would never lower himself to speak seriously to women in public.
†† She says: ďYou are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.Ē†
And one more big barrier.† She was a moral outcast, he was a righteous teacher.
†† All the commentaries point to significance of sixth hour, and getting water alone.
The sixth hour is high noon.† The middle of the day.† The hottest time.
†† The women would customarily go to the village well early in the morning.
†† They would draw enough water for cooking and cleaning for the day.
It was the coolest time for that hard work, and also it was a time to socialize,
†† to catch up on the village news and gossip.†
But this woman came by herself in the heat of the day.† Why?†
†† Because she was a moral and social outcast.†
†† She had lived in a string of serial marriages.† She was probably a home-wrecker.
†† She was living with a man not her husband, shacking up.
None of the women wanted to be with her, and she didnít want to be with them.
All these barriers, but Jesus crossed them all and said:† Letís talk to each other.
†† He did this all the time, not just with her.† He crossed impossible barriers to know
†† peopleóZacchaeus, Mary Magdalene, the lepers he touched.
The reason Jesus did this repeatedly is because living water is a gift.
†† Itís not given on basis of merit, pedigree, class or moral status.† Itís Godís grace.
Thatís always a surprise and shock because the way of the world is that the people
†† who meet God and who get his blessing are the good people,
†† those who are moral and who are seeking him, following his ways.
But this woman was living an irreligious life.
†† She was not searching for God.† She was not crying out to God.
†† She wasnít stumbling her way to the well in tears, pleading for Godís mercy.
She was ok with her life.† In fact, when Jesus keeps saying, Youíre spiritually
†† thirsty and need living water, she says:† What?† What are you talking about?
She just wanted to draw her water from the well and get back home.
†† She had no higher or more meaningful view of life than that.
But Jesus Christ met her at the well and her life was changed forever.
†† A thousand years from now, if Jesus doesnít come back,
†† Christians will still be talking about her, just like we are now.†
She wasnít seeking God.† She wasnít even praying.
†† Thatís living water.† Thatís Godís grace.† Itís full of surprises.†
Jesus breaks down barriers and comes to who he will, and thatís surprising.
This has some big applications for our church life, for Christ Covenant.
It means when we come to church, we have to leave distinctions at the door.†
†† Have to leave the things that matter out there in the world like class, status,
†† success, even moral historyówe have to leave those things outside.
Jesus brings his living water to all sorts of people, need to be ready to be surprised.
And if living water a gift and a surprise, that means both for other people and for us,
†† we need to be ready for adventure, because we donít have a push button God. †
This story shows us that God doesnít just come to the people who are seeking him
†† and crying out to him, and doing all the right things.
But this story he comes to people who are doing all the wrong things
†† and not even interested in him at first.†
So you certainly canít sayóGod canít use that person.† She has nothing to offer.
And you canít even say it about yourself.† If you have sunk down into a low,
†† sad condition, if think you donít have much to offer his kingdomó
†† Jesus still comes and offers living water.†
Old hymn:† Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings.††
†† Living water is surprising.
MP#2† The satisfaction of living water
Living water comes by grace, but what is it?† Itís more than forgiveness.
†† Itís satisfaction.
We donít live in an arid climate, we donít have to draw water daily from a well.
†† I doubt any of us have ever suffered from terrible thirst like the kind Ernest
†† Shackleton described, where your tongue swells and sticks to the roof of your
†† mouth and it feels like you are burning inside.
So we have to use our imagination.
Thirst is the most fundamental urge and bodily instinct.
†† We can live a month or more without food, but only a few days without water.
Everyone who has experienced great thirst and lived to tell about it describes how
†† painful and all-consuming it is.
Our bodies are made of water, and so when it is lacking, we cry out for itó
†† and nothing else will satisfy but to drink deeply.
Jesus told the woman at the well:†
†† I have something your soul needs every bit as much as your body needs water.†
And if you go to any other source to quench the thirst of your soul,
†† that thirst will only get worse.
If you pursue any other cause but me, any other hope, or rest, or beauty, or purpose
†† you will die of thirst.† Itís like a person in a life raft drinking salt water to quench
†† his thirst.† It feels good for a moment, but it hastens your death.
Then Jesus told her something even more remarkable.
†† He told her that the living water he was offering would become
†† a spring inside her, welling up to eternal life.
Without Christ, people have to go outside themselves to find satisfaction.
†† If you want purpose in life, you have to turn to something outside yourself.
†† So you find purpose in your career, or in a political cause, or your family.
But what if your political cause goes down the drain?†
†† What if you are on the losing side of a tidal wave election like just had,
†† and you had invested your purpose and hope in a particular political vision?
Or what if you lose your job or even reach retirement age and lose that sense of
†† purpose and usefulness you had going into work each day.†
Or what if your marriage or family blows up?†
†† What if your spouse says:† I donít want to be married anymore?
†† What if your parents get a divorce?
You die of thirst, thatís what happens.
Our souls are so fragile.† We thirst for purpose, for beauty, for love.
†† Even if you find the perfect person who satisfies all those longings,
†† you canít be sure that person will always be affirming and accepting.
And most of all, that person is mortal.† Death will separate you one day.
Jesus says:† I can give you a purpose, a love, a peace, a hope, a beauty
†† that permanently wells up within you no matter what.
If you pour all sorts of rubble and junk into a spring, the flow may be stopped
†† for a time, but eventually you will see water seeping out, and the bubbling
†† will push through.
Living water welling up inside doesnít mean you are separated from rest of life.
†† It doesnít mean there arenít things worth pursuing with all your might.
Of course you should pour your passion into your lifeís work and into your
†† marriage and your family.† And if God has led you to some great cause
†† like a political cause or a legal cause.† Those are worthy for Christians.
And springs of living water doesnít mean you donít feel deeply
†† and even suffer terrible disappointments.
But what is does mean is that you donít get ultimate satisfaction from them.
This week I was talking to someone who said:†
†† If I could only get married, then I would be happy.†
†† Whenever I talk to my married friends, I envy them.† They have it made.
I told this person that Iíve heard other people say that:†
†† If only I could get married, then Iíd be happy.†
But Iíve also heard people say:
†† If I could just get out of this marriage, then Iíd be happy.†
There is a spring of living water that Jesus Christ gives that bubbles up
†† from inside the soul of men and woman and boys and girls who trust him.
So how do we get it?
Brings us to the third point.
MP#3† The stages of living water
When the woman at the well first met Christ, she was completely indifferent.
†† She had no interest in spiritual things.† She was not seeking him.
But even though she came to know Christ very quickly, she came through stages.
†† These stages are present in almost every life.
†† They might progress quickly or they might take years.
And these are not just stages leading to a personís conversion,
†† the Lord sometimes takes believers through these stages to bring them back
†† to him and to the living water that he has already given them.
The first stage:† He gets her alone.
Jesus could never have had this conversation if she had come with other women.
†† It just wouldnít have worked.† She had to be alone.
So how did he get her alone?† She got herself alone.†
How did she get herself alone?† By screwing up her life.
†† The Lord Jesus Christ used her screw ups to get her alone.
When we are successful, when all is going well, when we are surrounded by people
†† and busyness, we donít think about Jesus.† We donít ask the big questions.†
But when we screw up, and Jesus gets us alone with him,
†† then there is the possibility that we will start to think.†
The second stage:† He gets her interested.†
Weíve said it already, but it needs to be repeated.†
†† She wasnít interested in spiritual things.† She wasnít thinking about God and life.
†† Jesus talked to her and got her interested.† He got her thinking.
Christianity is the thinking personís religion.†
†† How often did Jesus say to his disciples:† Consider, think.
†† Consider the lilies of the field.† Consider the birds of the air.
†† How often did Paul say:† For I reckon, for I consider.
The Christian faith if certainly far more than the intellect, but itís not less.
†† You canít have a real encounter with Christ that leaves the brain out.
†† It canít just be the brain, of course, but the mind has to be engaged.
So Christ got her thinking about life with some provocative comments.
The third stage:† He gets personal.
He tells her about living water, he says it againóliving water within you.
†† She says:† Interesting, but I just want running water, donít have to come to well.†
She is unable to make the connection to the life of her soul.
So Jesus says:† Go get your husband.† Why did he change the subject?†
†† Why did he go from talking about the satisfaction of the soul to her marital status?†
He didnít change the subject.† He was still talking about living water.
†† But he was making it personal.
She said:† This living water is interesting, but Iím not spiritually thirsty.
†† Thatís not my problem.†
†† Jesus says, Oh yeah, youíre not spiritually thirsty? †Go get your husband.
She says:† I donít have a husband.† Jesus says:† True, youíve had five husbands
†† and the man you are living with now not your husband.†
His point is to show her that she is spiritually thirsty.
†† In her case, she had tried all her life to quench the thirst for acceptance
†† and happiness and affirmation through a string of male relationships.†
†† She had gone from one bed to another looking for love.
In her case it was men, it could be your career, your appearance, your reputation,
†† it could be money and security, money and comfort, morality, religion, children.
Jesus has a way of getting you alone, sometimes through your screw ups,
†† getting you interested and thinking, and then getting personal and showing
†† you just how much you have wrongly invested your life into this idol.†
The fourth stage:† He wins her, he conquers her.
She tries one last time to put him off, at least make him quit putting his finger
†† on this painful and empty part of her life.† She raises a question about worship.
It was a perennial argument between Jews and Samaritans.†
†† Which is the true temple and where should it be located?
Jesus doesnít say:† Youíre changing the subject.† He answers her.†
Salvation is from the Jews.† In other words, God has revealed himself
†† through Abraham and Moses and David and all the prophets.
You have to reckon with the Bible, you canít ignore this truth.
†† Itís here in the Scripture, the story of Godís redemption through Israel.
And where does all of redemptive history point in all its details?
†† What does the temple point to?† It points to me.† Itís all about me.
†† The hour is coming when God will have people who worship in spirit and truth.
She says:† Yes, all that will happen when the Messiah comes.†
†† He says:†
I am he, and she believes in him.
Why exactly did she believe at the end?† Jesus won her, conquered her.
†† She was changed.† Instead of avoiding people, with new confidence, self image,
†† she went to village and told them, come and see man who told me everything.
Weíve considered the surprise of living water, the satisfaction of it,
†† and the stages of it.† Now let me tell you . . .
A story of living water.
About a year ago there was an interview in World Magazine of an author named
†† Rosaria Butterfield.† She had written an autobiography called
†† The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.
Back in the late 90s, Rosaria was a tenured professor of English and womenís
†† studies at Syracuse University.† She was a committed leftist and lesbian.
She said:† ďMy life was happy, meaningful, and full.† My partner and I shared many vital
†† interests, AIDS activism, childrenís health and literacy, Golden Retriever rescue, and our
†† Unitarian Universalist Church.Ē†
She began to do research on the Religious Right and their politics of hatred
†† toward gays, and wrote an article for the Syracuse newspaper criticizing
†† Promise Keepers (do you remember the Christian menís rallies?), 1997.
Her article prompted many responses.† She kept two boxes on her desk.
†† One for hate mail and one for fan mail.
But she got one letter that defied her filing system.
†† It was from the pastor of the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church,
†† a man named Ken Smith.† It was a gracious and kind letter.
But he challenged her with a series of questions that she couldnít answer.
†† What is the basis for what you believe?† How do you know you are right?
†† Do you believe in God?† Have you ever read what Bible says about this?
And he invited her to dinner at his home.† She accepted.
†† She thought it would be good for her research about these Christian extremists.
But she ended up becoming friends with Ken and his wife Floy.
†† They entered her world.† Met her friends.† Read her books, gave her books.
†† They discussed literature, they asked intellectual questions.† Had her over often.
†† They never invited her to church or shared the Gospel with her directly.
But they never hid their faith.† They prayed at meals, they talked about the lordship
†† of Jesus Christ and how the Bible applies to life, and challenged her to read it.
She did.† Over three years read whole Bible many times in different translations.†
†† Her other friends warned heróthis Bible reading is changing you.
Sunday mornings she would get a cup of Starbucks and the New York Times,
†† and sit in a parking across street and watch the families going inside for worship.†
This is how she describes what happened next:
ďI continued reading the Bible, all the while fighting the idea that it was inspired.† But the Bible got to be bigger inside me than I.† It overflowed into my world.† I fought against it with all my might.† Then, one Sunday morning, I rose from the bed of my lesbian lover, and an hour later sat in a pew of the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church.† Conspicuous with my butch haircut . . . I fought with everything I had.† I did not want this.† I did not ask for this.† I counted the costs and I did not like the math on the other side of the equal sign.† But Godís promises rolled in like sets of waves into my world.
She describes how for months she sat in church, pushing back against the sermons
†† she was hearing and trying to hold out against Christ.
ďThen, one ordinary day, I came to Jesus, openhanded and naked.† Ken was there.† Floy was there.† The church that had been praying for me for years was there.† Jesus triumphed.† I was a broken mess.† Conversion was a train wreck.† I did not want to lose everything that I loved.† But the voice of God sang a sanguine love song in the rubble of my world.† I weakly believed that if Jesus could conquer death, he could make right my world.† I drank, tentatively at first, then passionately of the solace of the Holy Spirit.Ē
Just as he came to the woman at the well, so Jesus comes to women and men today
†† who are dying of thirst, even if they donít know it.†
Even if they would rather keep drinking from poisonous wells that are killing them.
†† I like my life, they say to Jesus, but he keeps pressing, and who can resist him?
What did he do for us?† How did he secure living water?
†† By suffering thirst for us.† Out of all the things Jesus suffered, the flogging,
†† the crown of thorns, the nailsóonly one was so awful that he mentioned it.
Do you remember?† I thirst.†
†† For you he suffered the worst thirst of all, the burning thirst of Godís wrath
†† against sin, so that you can drink deeply of Godís grace
Maybe you are thirsty today and you donít even know itó
†† come to Christ, surrender to him, and drink the living water.
And there may be some of you here, Christians, believersó
†† you know the living water, you drank it once, but youíre wandering.
Youíve found yourself going back to the poison and the filth.
†† How can you do that?† It was for you that Jesus said:† I thirst.
†† Repent and come back to him and drink deeply.