Sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent based on John 4:5-26
Dear people who drink the living water: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
We listened in on a very personal conversation between Jesus and the woman of Samaria in our Gospel reading today. A sensitive matter, although to our ears Jesus may sound insensitive.
Jesus, knowing all things including the situation of this woman, said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” She’d had five husbands. Jesus knew this. She was with a man now to whom she was not married. Jesus knew this. She did not have a husband to call and bring to Jesus. Jesus knew this. Yet, Jesus told her to go and call her husband and bring him.
When the woman admitted that she had no husband, Jesus aired her dirty laundry. Jesus dragged up the sin of her past and present and confronted her with it. They were just having a conversation about water, and then Jesus turned the conversation into an uncomfortable accusation concerning her sin.
The woman’s natural reaction was to deflect. She responded, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus’ conversation was not a comfortable one for her, so she turned it around to talk about Jesus and about places of worship.
When God’s Law hits you and you know you’re guilty, it’s far easier to change the subject than deal with the brunt accusations of the Commandments. It’s easier to talk about other people or about something that surely the man of God would want to talk about – the worship of God.
The thing about the accusations of the Law is that they’re not supposed to be comfortable. God didn’t give us the Law to comfort us. He gave us the Law to terrify us of our sin. He gave us the Law to show us that we are sinful and we need a Saviour, someone to save us from sin; someone to save us from ourselves.
This woman of Samaria could not change her past. She couldn’t change the fact that she had had five husbands. Whatever had happened between her and those men could not be undone. The baggage of her past was the baggage of her past and the Law of God does nothing to alleviate the weight of that baggage. Quite the opposite. The Law of God adds an infinite amount of weight to the baggage of our sin. The Law of God shows us that we cannot carry the weight of even one of our sins, even those that we foolishly imagine are tiny sins. The Law of God piles on the weight and only one of two things can happen. Either we cling to our baggage of sin and are crushed under its weight, or Jesus takes it from us because He is the Saviour that we need. Either we cling to our sin of past and present and go to hell for eternity, or Jesus takes the weight of our sin from us, every last gram, and we live eternally without the baggage of sin.
This comfort and taking away of the weight of sin does not come from the terrifying accusations of the Law. This comfort comes from the Gospel, the good news that tells us that Jesus has already carried the weight of our sin. He carried it to the cross and died with the whole world’s weight of sin on Him. Jesus suffered for us and in our place so that we would not have to carry the weight of our own sins into hell.
The woman could do nothing about her past sin, but she could do something about her present sin, the sin that she was in at that very moment. With Jesus offering to take away the baggage of all her sin, not just her past sin, why would she cling to her present sin and refuse to turn away from it?
By all indications, she did not cling on to her sin and refuse to repent. She left her water jar, and ran into town and told the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”
The woman was no longer deflecting. She was no longer avoiding the topic of her sin. In fact, she was going around openly talking about her sin. She had been confronted by God’s Law but she no longer had reason to deflect or attempt to hide her sin. Her sin had been exposed by the Christ, the one who came to bear her sin, and our sin.
Earlier, the woman did not realise that she needed a drink of water. She knew she needed water from the well, but she did not know that she needed living water from Jesus. She did not know that she needed forgiveness. She thought she didn’t need forgiveness because she hid her sin and deflected the accusations of God’s Law. But God’s Law exposed her sin. She thought she didn’t need forgiveness because she worshiped God. Jesus told her, “You worship what you do not know.” Jesus told her that she cannot hide behind her religion. You cannot worship in Spirit and truth when you’re living in sin. She needed a drink of living water from Jesus but she didn’t know it until Jesus exposed her sin with God’s Law and rejected her appeals of worshiping God as a cover for her sin.
We cannot fool God. We can fool ourselves if we deflect God’s Law or think it doesn’t apply to us. We can fool ourselves if we tell ourselves that we aren’t so bad or sinful. We can fool ourselves into saying that everything is okay because of our religion – because we come to church; because we worship God. We cannot fool God.
We cannot worship in Spirit and truth if we do not repent of our sin. If God’s Law has not struck us with its accusations, its discomfort, and its terror, we don’t even know we need living water from Jesus. If that Law has not killed us, we do not know that we need new life from the one who gives living water.
However, once the Law of God has done its work, there is no more hiding sin, denying sin, or deflecting God’s Law. There is only sorrow over sin. There is terror because we realize that we deserve hell. Then we realize that we need living water; living water which only Jesus can give us.
Jesus gives us living water wherever He gives us forgiveness. All the benefits of everything He has done for us are given to us in the means of grace, which are the Gospel, Baptism, and The Sacrament of the Altar. The benefits of His perfect life are given us in the means of grace. The benefits of His suffering and death are given us in the means of grace. The benefits of His resurrection and ascension are given us in the means of grace. Those benefits are the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.
Because Jesus gives us the forgiveness of sins, past and present, through the means of grace, He gives us living water which means we will live forever with Him in eternity. Our thirst for forgiveness is quenched.
God’s Law is not pleasant to hear. It is not comfortable to hear. Yet, without it we would not know of our need for the living water of forgiveness. Without it we would not know of our need for Jesus.
God’s Law is so important because it leads us to the living water which Jesus gives. The discomfort of the Law is to lead us to the comfort of the Gospel. The Law shows us that we are parched, so that we will receive living water from Jesus, as we receive the forgiveness of sin. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.