Dying for a Drink
Doctors say most of us don't get enough water because we only drink when we feel thirsty. It's hard to get someone to take a drink when they don't feel thirsty. However, when someone is dying for a drink, they guzzle it down. In this text, you'll be surprised by who's dying for a drink.
Jesus for one is. We read, "Jesus, tired as he was from the journey..said, 'Give me a drink." Tired is "faint from weariness." It's a perfect, meaning Jesus is wiped out now and for the foreseeable future. Jesus plops down at this well unable to go on. "His disciples," however, "had gone into the down to buy food." You've been on hikes before. People's stamina differs. Some always lag behind others. Some must stop sooner than others to rest. Jesus couldn't go any further; the disciples could. A further indication of Jesus' thirst is that he doesn't ask for a drink as the insert wrongly translates. No he commands or demands one. "Give" is an imperative and the Greek text doesn't punctuate this as a question. When you're spent, ragged, and thirsty, you don't ask you tell.
Jesus isn't the only one dying for drink in this text, so is the woman, but she doesn't know it. We know her whole story from the beginning even as Jesus the all-knowing God does. She's had a series of husbands, 5 in all. I suppose we could think of them dying or wrongly divorcing her, but why would Jesus even mention them if her sin wasn't involved? In any case, she's living in sin now. I know we would just say "they're living together" as if it really wasn't any big deal. But the Biblical truth is she's a fornicator; and as St. Paul says we should not deceive ourselves, "No fornicator will go to heaven."
Oops. I said that too strongly, didn't I? "Living together" is too popular of a sin for me to speak so bluntly about. You have kids, grandkids, friends, coworkers, and neighbors living together. They certainly act like Christians otherwise. They go to church; their church probably is communing them in their sin...hardening them in it by the way. But, the truth is they're fornicators; and they're outside of the kingdom of heaven. And if you don't think that's true, why would Jesus speak to the woman about living water and living together? Why not just tell her about the living water?
This woman knows she's living in sin. She shows it by coming to the well to draw her water not in the morning when most of the other women do, but in the heat of the day. Her society still had shame attached to fornicating while ours expects and celebrates it in TV, movies, and song. This woman couldn't bear the daggers other women shot at her with their stares. When Jesus speaks of giving water that won't run out, the women jumps at the chance to not have to come here to get her water.
This woman knows she's living in shameful sin, and her society, friends, and family don't help her do it. The only one you can be sure of who does is her male "friend." When Jesus hits too close to home by telling her to go call her husband, she tries to hide her sin saying, "I have no husband." People will evade facing their sin a hundred different ways. "We just don't have the money to get married." "We don't want to rush into marriage." "We've both been burned before." And of course there is always the religious thing. When cornered, the woman is quick to bring out her religion. She worships God. She goes to church. She's a believer. She's content to live in her sins with her excuses, her religion, her god. She's dying for a drink, but doesn't know it.
What about you? Are you dying for a drink? To be sure, your friends, coworkers, relatives living in fornication, are dying for one, but you can't share what you don't have and you don't have it if you don't think you need it. So I ask again, Are you dying for a drink? Or are you doing just fine with your sins? Are you living with yours the way this woman lived with hers? You have routines built in to your day that help hide your sin from you. You have words to make your monstrous sins harmless pets. You set your religion, or more likely your faith and the fact that you pray over against your sin and sinfulness. You my friend are dying of thirst.
Nobody knows they're dying for a drink till Jesus shows them. And the only way even Jesus can do this is through the law. Of course, we don't agree. We think we can help our friends and relatives with the sins they live in by being nice, entice them to church with food, friendliness, or by offering something that meets their felt needs. 5 years ago I went up to a free conference in Plano. 3 different conservative, Lutheran parents from the Dallas area, one a pastor, came to me telling of their son or daughter at UT who didn't go to church. They all individually suggested that I need to offer pizza or food to get them to come. Yes folks that's what I did with my son when he went off to college. I told him, "Go to church if they offer pizza." If Jesus thought like that, He would have offered the woman a drink not told her to give Him one. And it's hardly being "nice" in the eyes of the world to expose someone's sins.
But that's what Jesus does, and notice how sharply He does it. He doesn't just say, "Go get your husband." No, after the woman rejoices at the fact of not having to come here for water; Jesus tells her, "Go get your husband and bring him here." Yikes! Here? This is precisely where she didn't want to go. Now Jesus wants her to bring her live-in fornicator where the other women might see the sin she tried to hide. How could she go on pretending she wasn't living in sin with her companion in fornication standing next to her? And notice it wasn't enough to just expose her living together now. Jesus laid out all her sins. It's like confronting an alcoholic. He'll admit to a drinking problem. But it's only by laying out bottle after empty bottle that you can neutralize his polite words for his sin of drunkenness.
Jesus doesn't let this women hide behind her religion either. He bluntly tells her, "You Samaritans worship what you don't know." Not only is she a fornicator, she's caught up in the worse sin of false doctrine. And on top of this even her false worship lacks Spirit and truth. You can't worship in Spirit and truth when you're pretending your sins aren't sinful.
Boom! There go all of the ways this woman could pour water on her sins and sinfulness. She can't hide them. She can't pretend they're not that bad. She can't think her religion takes care of her sins. She's guilty; damned guilty, and the fires of hell will cook her till her tongue blisters.
That's how you should see your case too. Never mind those other people you know living in sins. You can't, indeed you won't, help them until you see that you yourself are dying for a drink. Your excuse that it's just the way your are; your hiding behind how you were raised; your certainty that there are other people worse than you, doesn't wash away anything. Your worshiping of God, your believing in Jesus, your praying aren't the water of life. Salvation must be given to you; it must come from outside of you. Nobody, can quench their thirst by worshiping water, by believing they have taken a drink, by asking for a drink. If someone doesn't give you water, you will die of thirst.
You're dying for a drink. I'm dying for a drink, but greater than our thirst for salvation is Jesus' thirst to save us. While we're dying for a drink, Jesus died to give us a drink. Don't hear this text as an instruction manual for how to share the gospel. No, first hear that it is the gospel. Why is Jesus, the creator of all water, the One who gives drink to every living thing, plopped down before a well exhausted and thirsty? Why is He so wrung out when His disciples are not? Because He's bearing your, my, and our sins, and that's a hellishly heavy load. He suffers thirst as wretched sinners like us ought to. On the cross, He'll cry, "I thirst" because the flames of hell you deserve burn and blister His tongue. Though Jesus never thought, did, or said a sin like you do everyday of your life, Jesus was thrown out of the garden of God's grace into the waterless desert of His wrath for your sakes.
Jesus goes to the cross bearing those sins you hide with polite words and absurd excuses. Jesus goes to the cross bearing countless sins that you can't even begin to imagine. He goes bearing those serious, shameful sins of yours that you think you can hide by your faith, your religion, or prayers. And your worst fears can't picture the pangs of hell that Jesus endured in body and soul for your sins. See Him, hear Him, feel Him swelling ever more larger with the suffering, thirsting, bleeding and dying that you deserve, until He pops. And what comes out of that holy precious Body of His? The Water that is a washing of rebirth; the Blood which He gives you for wine to quench your thirst for salvation.
This is wonderful, supernatural Water and Blood. Having it poured on your body in Baptism and poured into your mouth in Communion stops the dreaded, deadly, damnable disease of self-righteousness. Gone are your excuses for your sins. You don't need them because the Water and the Blood have washed your sins away. Gone are your attempts to limit the number of your sins. If Jesus died for all sins and gives forgiveness for all of yours in the Water you've been washed with and the Blood you drink, then where your sins are more His grace is all the more as St. Paul said. And gone are your attempts to quench your own thirst by your believing, praying, or worshiping. No, true worship is bathing in and drinking up the Water and the Blood that flows from Jesus' riven side. True worship is knowing you will die without the drink that Jesus died to give you. True worship is opening your mouth wide for Jesus to fill it with His living Water and life-giving Blood. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Second Sunday in Lent (2-20-05); John 4:5-26