This Sunday churches around the world will celebrate a time when God used not a wooden platform in a cathedral, not a boat in the Sea of Galilee, not a mountain top named Sinai, but a braying ass as his pulpit.
Jesus never does get His drink of water. He asks for one, from our not-so-puritan friend, Ms. Samaritan. Give me a drink. Not a lot to ask from the lady. Still, even at the story’s end, His whistle’s not wet. But that’s okay, because our Savior is always more interested in giving than in receiving. He asks for what we should be asking for. Give me a drink. It’s His not-so-subtle way of reminding us that we don’t know what we need until He tells us. We beg Him for salt but He gives water, for a serpent but He hands over a fish. “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.”
“If you knew the gift of God.” If you knew that, nothing else would really matter, for you would have Him who is everything. Take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife; take they our Synod, seminary, congregation, salary; take what they may, they yet have nothing won, the living water ours remaineth. If you knew the gift of God, you would laugh at the pile of dung you have christened your “success.” If you knew the gift of God, you’d let the world damn you for your five husbands and the five hundred other skeletons you’ve crammed into your closet, for you have acceptance in the husband who won’t let you go, who’s burned your skeletons to ashes in the flames of His love. If you knew the gift of God, you’d reject all the poison the bartender from Hades tries to shove your way; you’d slake your thirst in one place: in the fountain of living water, cascading from the side of the upraised body of the temple destroyed for you, but rebuilt in three days.
For One greater than Jacob is here. That patriarch worked seven, nay, fourteen years to gain his lovely Rachel. But our Jacob worked harder, worked longer, worked to death, to wed those made so ugly by sin that they make homely Leah seem a trophy bride. He labored to gain Ms. Samaritan, Gomer, Jezebel, and you, their twin sisters, as His wife. Our Jacob loved this church and gave Himself up for her, that He might beautify her, having cleansed her by the washing of living waters that issued from the new and better Eden.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? You are, who are flesh of flesh and bone of bone with Jesus, our Jacob. You who drink from the well of salvation He dug with His own hands. You who dine at His table and drink from His cup. You to whom our Jacob has pledged His undying love and fidelity. You are the fairest of them of all, for His kisses of grace have healed your scars, brightened your eyes, transformed you from a beast to a beauty.
So come with me, my fellow Samaritans, and let us ask this Jew for His living waters. He knows what it means to thirst.
P.S. This unnamed Samaritan woman, after her conversation with Jesus at the well (John 4), went back into town and told her fellow citizens about Jesus, saying, "He told me all the things I have done." As a result, "many of the Samaritans believed in Him." They testified, "This one is indeed the Savior of the world." Later tradition named this woman Photini, which means "enlightened one." She tirelessly told and retold the story of Jesus, not only in her hometown, but also in Carthage, where she traveled to carry on the work of evangelism. During the persecution of Christians under Nero, she spoke to Gospel to Nero's daughter, who became a Christian. She died the death of a martyr, by Nero's hand, in A.D. 66.