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Satisfy Our Thirst

John 4:5-42

The Rev. Jon Roberts

21 March


Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Venice, FL

5 So he came to a city of Samar′ia, called Sy′char, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 There came a woman of Samar′ia to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samar′ia?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 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.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband; this you said truly.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” 27 Just then his disciples came. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, “What do you wish?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the city and were coming to him. 31 Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought him food?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. 36 He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”


Moses bringing forth water from the Rock, by Christoffel Lubieniecki, 1659-1729, National Museum, Warsaw

I thirsted in the barren land of sin and shame,
and nothing satisfying there I found;
but to the blessed cross of Christ one day I came,
where springs of living water did abound.

O sinner, won't you come today to Calvary?
A fountain there is flowing deep and wide.
The Savior now invites you to the water free,
Where thirsting spirits can be satisfied.[1]

The irony of living in Florida is that it was once a land founded on moving water. An underground river is what some used to call it as aquifers below the surface were full and plentiful. People used to be satisfied with its abundance. Talk to anyone who used to dig wells for a living and they may reminisce. They'll tell you the river flowed more freely, only needing to go down thirty feet to hit water. Now they go down nearly a hundred, just to hit a pond. We are in the middle of a drought. You can see it in our lakes. Oh, you have heard it said, "The rainy season is coming and everything will rise back up again." The levels we see may be rising but it's only temporary. Florida as a whole, like Texas and California, are running out of water. How can this be? Two-thirds of the planet is water, but ninety-seven percent of it is salty.

We have turned to the costly enterprise of desalination. Others believe it's about water management. Low flushing toilets; no watering yards in the winter; recapturing more wastewater. How can we go from a land founded on moving water to one that is drying up? Even further, our population on Earth rises. More countries dip into the depreciating, reliable sources. Rivers are dammed and the wells go deeper. If this keeps up we'll know what it means to thirst, like those who followed Moses into the Wilderness of Sin, or the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. If we go back far enough to the land of Egypt and talked with one of Jacob's people, they would reminisce of thirsty times. They thirsted for freedom but didn't know what it would take to gain it. Slavery occurred over a slow recession lasting four hundred years. They decided to spend big. They began to borrow more. Before long they sold their children into slavery. The freedom they had enjoyed had run out, and they became more dependent on reliable sources; on masters who willed them what to do. It took someone from outside to show a better way to live, so God called Moses to lead His people out of bondage. Plagues and destruction would cripple the Egyptian government. At their grand exodus they headed south of Goshen and walked along the coast of the Red Sea. Over a half a million men, women and children created a giant swath across the sand and by the seventh day they grew tired.

Knowing an army would pursue, God showed Moses the way. There was an opening in the mountainous range to their east. It wasn't wide enough for all of them to pass at once, so they divided into stages to pass through. The path had many turns. It was rocky and barren of life. This place was called the Wilderness of Sin; a place of cold, desolation and darkness. The complaints of thirst grew so much that they rumbled as echoes across the rocky walls that flanked them. Each step they took, the further and further away they felt from their home; but God was taking them home. He led them to a place where their thirst would be satisfied. It sometimes takes us getting off the beaten path, away from the things we have become dependent, in order for God to lead us to a spring of living water. At some point they decided they can't go without. "Even if we're treated badly, it's better to live as slaves, than risk dying in the wilderness", one might hear.

It is convenient to blame and to criticize the one who leads us. We say things like, "They're lost" or "They don't care about us." And then we strike against the rock. With our last bit of hope. With our last bit of strength. Our struggle is given up. It is in moments like this when God can do the greatest good in us. Like the rock in that wilderness, God provides the unexpected miracle. Water comes gushing out and pure salvation washes over us. Not only are we like the runaway slave, but we are also like the rock. If you recall, it was Jesus who said to Peter, "On this rock I will build my church and the powers of death shall not prevail against it."[2] Before the rock can be opened, it is often necessary to travel through our Wilderness of Sin. It is by knowing thirst, that we can be satisfied when we drink. The Samaritan woman at Jacob's well knew this. She knew the land of sin and shame. She was one, like so many, who may have complained along the way, and gave excuses; "When God comes, he will show us the way," and it was Jesus who struck her with these words, "I who speak to you am He." Imagine the irony of sitting on Jacob's well, a place where one used to drop their bucket only thirty feet, but now had to go a hundred to hit water.

"The hour is coming, and now is", says the Lord.[3] By him, and with him, and in him Jesus poured out himself on the entire world. Who, here, has ever carried their bucket to the well of life? Who, here, has ever passed through a cold, desolate place hoping to be filled; living by faith; living as one completely dependent on God?

"Come, let us bow down and bend the knee,"[4] as one who has thirsted "in the barren land of sin and shame, and nothing satisfying there was found; but to the blessed cross of Christ one day you came, where springs of living water did abound. O sinner, won't you come today to Calvary? A fountain there is flowing deep and wide. The Savior now invites you to the water free, where thirsting spirits can be satisfied."

[1] Poem by songwriter John W. Peterson, 1921-2006.
[2] Matthew 16:18
[3] John 4:39-42
[4] Psalm 95:6

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