I wanted you to experience the Scriptures as I experienced them this week.
I started with the Isaiah 55 passage cold, because it was the Old Testament lectionary passage. And something in it led me to the passage from John 4:5-42.
Isaiah 55:1 “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
John 4:10 “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.”
But the Samaritan woman doesn’t get it. She’s still thinking about actual water. The stuff that comes up out of the well they’re sitting near.
Isaiah 55:2 “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?”
The Samaritan woman is looking in the wrong direction, is sitting in front of Jesus, Lord, Messiah himself, and is talking about literal, wet water. Looking for something so simple as a thirst quencher, totally missing the point of the one who’s sitting in front of her. Jesus says to her, “those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
In Jesus, we find true satisfaction.
From Isaiah 55:2-3 “Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.”
Jesus himself is offering this Samaritan woman what was promised in Isaiah so long ago:
Isaiah 55:3-5 “I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See I made [the promised one] a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.”
In Christ, the covenant is opened up to the nations. Here in John we see that ever so boldly. He is offering the Samaritan woman—the Samaritan woman, the worst—the living water, the eternal life, genuine satisfaction. And he brings all this to her. Right to her. When she doesn’t even know she’s looking for it. Jesus meets her where she is and provides her need she didn’t even realize she had.
Jesus meets her where she is, but he doesn’t leave her there. He calls her on her polygamous ways. He doesn’t chastise her, but neither does he let it go unnoticed. He lifts it to her attention, she owns it: “Yes, I have no husband,” Jesus says, yes, this is true.
And the time is coming when you will worship me. When worship is done in spirit and in truth. The truth, the confrontation with who we truly are, is a necessary step in our worship. We can’t worship God while we’re hiding under some sort of mask of holiness. We must expose ourselves as the raw sinners we are.
Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
Maybe we wonder why Jesus doesn’t call her out, why he doesn’t yell at her, demand more repentance from her. She’s a pretty blatant sinner. And she does, very matter of factly, admit to her wrongdoing. She does not apologize, she does not show remorse. There is no sign of repentance here. But Jesus does not demand it, does not command it. Rather he goes right on to telling her about how she will come to understand the worship of the Father. Why is that? Why doesn’t he demand her repentance. Isn’t that what we always want? We want to see not simply admitting wrongdoing, from someone, often we’re not satisfied till we see some groveling from someone before we offer forgiveness, before we move on to the next step. That’s not what Jesus does here. He tells her of the day that is to come, when
Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Then there’s this almost intermission here in the Samaritan woman’s story. The disciples are wondering if Jesus has eaten, and he goes into some extended metaphor about his spiritual food, that is his doing the will of the Father and completing his work. He describes the the harvest for eternal life that he is already engaged in, whose fulfillment is yet to come.
Isaiah 55:10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth’ it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
God will complete the good work he has begun. His word is not without power. On the contrary, his Word is power. Where it is planted, there it will bear fruit.
John tells us (vv39 ff. ) “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.’”
And the Samaritans came to realize, as Jesus had told the woman, that the place of their worship, whether the Samaritan’s center of worship, or the Jews, would no longer matter. What would matter is the worship of the living Lord, in spirit and in truth. The Lord is the Lord of all: Jew, Gentile, Samaritan, all the earth. And the living water he brings is the source of Life for the restoration of everything.
Isaiah 55:12-13 “For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
May we all shed the baggage that is standing in our way of being completely engulfed by those living waters. Whether it be the stuff that doesn’t bring true satisfaction, or our own sinfulness. May we live into the broadness of God’s mercy that extends to all the ends of the earth. May we trust in his ways that are not are own, that are infinitely better. May we stand out of the way, as God plants the seeds of his Word and brings forth the fruit of faith. May we serve to nurture that life. And may we join all of creation in worshiping God in spirit and in truth: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.