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Sunday Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

I AM The Living Water - October 1, 2017

John 4:3-18

I love this story. I love who Jesus is and how he relates to this woman. and I love how outspoken this woman is. First, let's do a little orientation. The Jews and the Samaritans had similar ancestry— but long ago the Samaritans broke off and veered in another direction with their religious beliefs. And, with time, they became so different that they became enemies. They had no tolerance for each other. The story of the good Samaritan may be more familiar to us and it stands out because of all the people who would help, a

Samaritan was the least expected. So, Jesus goes to the land of the Samaritans, to a town called Sychar. It was about noon...during the heat of the day and so no one would normally be at the well. Water was collected early in the morning or late in the day to avoid the oppressive heat. But for some reason, this woman happened to be there at noon. If we read between the lines, she would have been there to avoid everyone else. You see, water collection was a communal time. The women would go to the well and chat and spend time together. It was a fellowship of sorts. But this woman didn't go to fellowship, she only wanted to get her water and go. So she went at the worst possible time...the hottest time...the time when no one else would be there. And surprisingly, she came upon a man.

Him being a man and her being a woman meant they wouldn't interact publicly....not without witnesses around. Add to that the fact that he was a Jew and she was a Samaritan, it simply wasn't proper. But he spoke to her. He asked her for a drink. Now, she could have quietly obliged and gotten him a drink. But she sees him as being out of line and calls him on it. Who are you, a Jew, to ask me, a Samaritan woman for a drink? In other words, you've got some nerve buddy! To which he replies, "If you only knew ... who it is that is asking you for water, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."
I love her reply. She doesn't say, "Oh, ok." She says, "Are you kidding, the well is deep and you have no bucket. Why on earth would I ask you for water? You have no way to retrieve it!!!" And Jesus says, "Whoever drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but if you drink the water I give, you'll never thirst again."
Now, imagine what that would mean for this woman....if you drink his water, you'll never be thirsty again. It may seem slightly odd, but for someone who loathes going to the well....who avoids running into those other women as best, she can, what if she could avoid them forever? If she were never thirsty she'd never have to fetch water and if she never had to get water, then she would never have to endure their glares or their whispers or even their silence. She could seemingly live her life in peace. So she says, "Yeah, give me some of that water!!!" To which Jesus says, "Ok, go get your husband and come back." It's a little weird. Why does she need her husband? Why can't Jesus just give her the water and move on? And his request only makes things awkward....because the woman doesn't have a husband. "Sir, I have no husband."
"Oh I know....you've had 5 husbands and the man you live with now isn't your husband. You've been honest." If this conversation wasn't awkward before, it is certainly awkward now. You've had 5 husbands and the man you live with now isn't your husband. A lot of people have assumed they know that this woman must have been an adulteress living with another man, but she wasn't necessarily sinful. She could have been a widow who was married and lost multiple husbands only to be left living with someone else since she wouldn't be able to support herself. It could have been either scenario...we don't' really know. But what we do know is that either way, she would have been scorned. She would have been looked down upon. Imagine if she had multiple husbands die....she would have been seen as a witch or tainted somehow for so many men to die. Or if she were an adulteress...the women would have been hateful and mean. Either way, it wasn't good for this woman at the well.
Now, I don't know about you, but I feel like if I had faced years of hatred from my community and did my best just to keep my head up and avoid them and then some stranger tells me "You've had 5 husbands and the one you have now is not your husband." I might just walk away. I mean, why engage with a perfect stranger? Who needs more criticism and judgment? But she stayed. So either she had built up a pretty thick skin or Jesus' words didn't feel judgmental. Maybe he just made a statement...something that was true, but unlike everyone else...he wasn't critical. He saw her and not just what people said about her. The woman stayed. She felt comfortable and safe enough to stay....and they kept talking. About the well, about the history, about true worship, about prophets and the Messiah. And something about their encounter changed this woman. It touched her. It freed her. So much so that she ran back to town to tell everyone what had happened and that they should come meet this man.
This woman who did everything in her power to avoid the people, to stay away from the community RAN to them....invited them to go WITH her and to meet this man. That's a huge change. Something shifted within her. Which begs the question, what happened?
Sure, she met Jesus. That's a big deal in and of itself. But lots of people had met Jesus (though probably not many Samaritans). But the start of the conversation is actually key. Jesus asks her for water and she sort of scoffs at him. And he says he could give her living water. We don't often talk about living water. For most modern folks living water suggests there's something living in it and we probably don't want to drink it. But living water is actually a thing unto itself. Living water is the water of a spring...the source of water. It's the freshest purest water and it's capable of giving life. (Both physically and spiritually). You see, in Jewish custom, there was something called a Mikveh...it was a bathtub outside of the temple. And before people entered the temple to worship, they would be ritually cleansed in the Mikveh. Often people would be fully immersed...baptized in the Mikveh. And the washing with water symbolized a spiritual washing as well. In fact, in Orthodox Judaism, the Mikveh is so important that it was built before the actual temple because you couldn't go into the temple if you weren't cleansed. In Jewish tradition, there are a variety of circumstances that make you ritually unclean. You couldn't go into the temple. Which, also meant you couldn't be part of the community because you would make them ritually unclean too. So, there were cleansing rituals that allowed someone to be restored to the community. One of which was to be washed in the Mikveh.
And guess what water was used to fill a Mikveh? Living water. It was the pure water to bring about spiritual cleansing and renewal. It was the water that could restore you to the community. So, for Jesus to offer Living water...he wasn't talking about literal water...but spiritual water that would cleanse, redeem and restore. He offered that water to the woman. And as a result, she was changed.

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