Third Sunday in Lent March 11-12, 2023
“What Should We Talk About?” John 4:5-26
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Are you good at avoiding things? Taking the two-step? Diverting the conversation? Redirecting what someone wants to discuss? If someone who thinks differently than you politically wants to engage in an intense discussion about who should be our next President, are you good at weaseling out of that debate? If someone directly says to you, “I’m wondering – how much money did you make last year?”, are you able to quickly answer, “Can you believe this weather that we’ve been having”?
Sometimes it is good to avoid a conversation. But sometimes you have to have it. Maybe not on some political debate or on matters that should be private, but when we read today’s account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, a pointed conversation had to be held. Jesus wanted to talk to her about her sin and her need, what He could do for her and what she could do for others.
You might know a little of this story. Jesus and His apostles are traveling through Samaria, a region in the northern region of Israel. After a long walk in the heat, He is thirsty and asks this Samaritan woman for a drink. And He uses that to tell her what He can give her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
I think she thinks that this living water Jesus is talking about is running water. She wouldn’t have to make any more trips to fill her water jar at this well. Life, for her, would be easier. But that is not what Jesus is talking about. He is talking about the Holy Spirit that flows in the heart of a believer in Jesus. Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
After this, Jesus begins to ask questions of her that she is not willing to answer. Jesus invites her to get her husband and come back for more of this conversation. To this request she answers, “I have no husband.” Jesus responds to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” (John 4:17-18) Wow!! Talk about making this initial meeting uncomfortable!!
But she wasn’t going to talk about that. She dodges His words with, “I can see that you are a prophet.” (John 4:19) That is, “Let’s not talk about me. Let’s talk about you.”
She avoids talking about something personal – her sin – and tries to jump to something academic. You see, Jews worshipped in Jerusalem at their temple. But Samaritans said that the holy mountain of God was Mt. Gerizim in Samaria. She said, “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” (John 4:20)
When Jesus tells her that the place of worship wasn’t to be confined to either that mountain or the one in Jerusalem He tells her, “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23) She becomes ambivalent once again, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” (John 4:25)
At every step she wants to avoid a conversation about herself and what He was saying. She wants to talk about matters that really don’t matter. She is one of billions who try to keep God at a distance.
How about you? How about some of your friends and relatives? We don’t like to talk about our sins. We have no trouble saying that we are a sinner – just like everyone else. We have no trouble saying that we aren’t perfect – just like everyone else. But don’t get too close to individual sins. We might say, “You know, let’s talk about something different.”
But what was amazing in this is that all the time when she was side-stepping what Jesus was saying, she was really listening. Jesus was making an impact on her. She went from avoidance, even hostility (You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?) to faith.
This woman, probably because she wanted to avoid all the other women in the community had come to get water from the well at noon. I have read that women would come to get water either early in the morning or later in the evening – when it was cooler. But she showed up at noon. No one would be glaring at her. But now, all that Jesus had said and done must have made an impact on her. We read “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I did. Could this be the Christ?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him.” (John 4:29-30)
There was a change. Jesus had asked, “What should we talk about?” And initially she didn’t want to talk about any of it. But now she wanted to talk about it all. “He told me everything I did.” “Can this be the Christ?”
What made the difference in her? It was the whole word about living water. All she had in her soul was sewage, and she knew it, and now this Jew named Jesus came talking about living water that would become refreshing water in her soul, bringing her eternal life. That interested her.
On Wednesday I had chapel with about 25 preschool kids here at Ascension. I always have the intent to share with those little kids something I consider important. I brought a big basin of water and I told them about Jesus washing His disciples feet. I removed my socks and shoes and showed them what He had done for them. I spoke about how water makes the outside clean and how Jesus makes the inside clean. When I was done speaking I must have seen 6 hands shoot up. I knew they got it. And then, just as quickly, I realized I had spoken over their heads. They all wanted to talk about taking a bath – especially bubble baths. And once someone mentioned bubble baths many more hands went up. I’ll keep on trying!!
Jesus must have gotten through to this woman. Jesus promised living water to cleanse the raw sewage of her life. There is a picture, using water, throughout the Bible of the new life that Jesus alone can bring us. Isaiah 55 gives this invitation, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Verses 1-2) Psalm 42 begins, “As the deer pants for steams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Verses 1-2) In Revelation this invitation is made, “To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.” (21:6) And, you may know the open invitation from Jesus in John 7, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (Verses 37-38)
What should we talk about? We can talk about our sin, even as dominating and destroying as it is in our lives. We don’t have to make believe that it isn’t there. But, all because of Jesus, our conversation doesn’t end with pain but a new conversation begins. We talk about how Jesus has washed us of sin. We talk about the living water of the Holy Spirit from Jesus that wells up within us. Now we have God living in us.
What should we talk about now becomes who should we talk about now. Have you ever spoken to anyone about what Jesus has done in your life? How Jesus has changed your life? Listen to what happened because of this lady’s words to others in her town. “Many of the Samaritans from the town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony. ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:39-42)
What do we get to talk about with others? We get to talk about the love of Jesus, the new life he gives to everyone. We get to share the joy of God with our family and our fellow students, our next-door neighbors and the person who plays pickle-ball with us.
What should we talk about? Our great God!! Amen!!