************ Sermon on John 4:14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 23, 2005
"Water of Life"
I Thirsty People
A Israel was in the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding any water. Three days without even a single palm tree breaking the horizon. Three days without a single drop for themselves or their animals. Their throats were dry, parched, scratchy. Their faces were covered with dust. Finally, they came to Marah. Palm trees. An oasis. Grass for the animals. I try to picture what happened next. A group of boys went dashing forward, eagerly leaned over the water, cupped it in their hands, and started to drink greedily. But just as quick as they started they stopped and spat it out. The water had a rancid taste. Maybe it was even poisonous. You know the water is bad when even the sheep and goats refused to drink it. Here was all this water and the people were thirsty but no one could drink. How awful would that be?! (Cf Exodus 15:22-27).
B All of us are born thirsty. God has created within us a thirst for things physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental. For instance, God has created us with a built-in thirst for food, drink, clothing, and shelter. God has created us with a thirst for stability and security. God has created us with a thirst for love, acceptance, friendship, and marriage. God has created us with a thirst for knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and culture.
All of us are born thirsty. The question is, how do we satisfy our thirst? Let me tell you what the natural man and woman does to satisfy their thirsts. They pursue wealth and treasure and worldly goods. They crave for the honors and acclaim of the world. They rush madly after the pleasures and desires of the flesh. They engage in an endless search for wisdom and knowledge. They endlessly explore the earth and the heavens. Why? Because there is an aching void in their life. Why? Because there is something in every natural man and woman that is unsatisfied. Why? Because they are thirsty!
All of us are born thirsty. Unless we thirst for the wrong things, or try to fulfill them in the wrong way, none of us should be ashamed of these deep desires and unfulfilled cravings. In some religions the gurus or teachers claim they can help their followers rid themselves of their desires. But the Christian religion makes no such claim. Rather, it promises to fulfill our desires, to quench our thirst.
C In our Scripture reading we meet a woman from Samaria. At first, Jesus simply asks her for a drink of water. Then He steers the conversation to the real issue: a gift that quenches the deepest human thirst.
This woman is no stranger to thirst. After all, she is at the well to draw water. And, she has been divorced five times and is living with a boyfriend when she meets Jesus. Here is a woman who is thirsty for a lasting, durable, stable relationship. Here is a woman thirsting for meaning and direction in her life.
D Jesus also knows something about thirst. After all, He asks the woman at the well for a drink of water. And, remember His fifth word from the cross? While hanging there, suffering and dying, Jesus says, "I am thirsty" (Jn 19:28). When we look at Matthew 27 we see that this fifth word from the cross is spoken by our Lord right after the three hours of darkness. During those three hours God turns His face away from Jesus. During those three hours Jesus has to bear on His own the weight of the whole world's sin. The disciples flee, Jesus' family and friends keep quiet, the jubilant crowds turn against Him. And now God forsakes Him too. This tears from Jesus the cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46).
"I am thirsty." After the three hours of darkness, the three hours of forsakenness, Jesus is crying for God.
E Like Jesus, the deepest need of every person is God. Whether He admits it or not, man is thirsty for God. I think of what the Psalmist says:
As the deer pants for streams of water,Did you know that in warm weather a fully grown deer must drink more than two quarts of water every day? Deer don't sweat. They pant instead.
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?
Have you ever been thirsty? I'm not talking about "I'd like a Coke" thirsty. I mean a "breathless, dry throat, parched lips, swollen tongue" kind of thirsty. I mean a "I need water right now!" thirsty. I mean a thirst after Pete makes you Cadets hike 5 miles in and 5 miles out somewhere in the mountains. Whether he knows it or not, whether he admits it or not, that's the kind of thirst man has for God.
I think too, of the words of an old, familiar hymn. These words remind us of how God's children hunger and thirst for God Himself:
We taste you, everlasting Bread,
and long to feast upon you still;
we drink of you, the fountainhead,
our thirst to quench, our souls to fill.
[Show the Cadets two vases, each with a flower; one vase has water and the other doesn't. Point out that one flower looks way better than the other. The difference is water.] People are like flowers – they thirst for water. But the water we thirst for is God Himself.
II Water for Thirsty People
A Jesus has an offer for all of us who are born thirsty. It is the same offer He makes to the Samaritan woman: it is an offer of living water.
As far as the Samaritan woman is concerned, "living water" is water that flows in contrast to water that stands still. Living water is the water in a river or stream or spring as opposed to the water in a pool or pond or cistern. "Living water" brings to mind the sparkling, clear mountain streams so loved by beer commercials. For the Samaritan woman the water in Jacob's well – being spring fed – is living water.
Jacob's well. I looked for a mention of this well in the Old Testament. No where to be found. Yet, the Samaritans have a tradition from way back that the well in Sychar was dug by Jacob. It is rather strange that Jacob dug a well here. This well goes down 75-100 feet. Digging and lining such a well was no small task. Only a stranger to the area, like Jacob, would have gone through so much trouble. I say that because commentators tell us there are over 80 natural springs in the area.
There are two words for "well" in our Bible reading. In verses 11 & 12 the ordinary Greek word for "well" is used – signifying a pool of standing water. In verse 6 the word for "fountain" is used – signifying that Jacob's well is spring-fed and supplied with running water. The Samaritan woman thinks of this kind of water when she hears Jesus' offer of living water. Living water is running water, water from a spring. Living water is like the water God gave to Israel while in the wilderness – water that poured from a rock.
That's not what Jesus has in mind at all.
What does Jesus mean by "living water"? What is the gift that He is offering to the Samaritan woman and to us? It is clear from later on in John's Gospel that "living water" is Jesus' gift of the Spirit. There Jesus says:
(Jn 7:37-39) "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. (38) Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."To these words the Gospel writer adds an explanation:
(39) By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.
B God, in Christ, satisfies our real thirst by means of the Spirit. This means that natural man looks to the wrong things and goes to the wrong places to fill his soul. Instead of going after God He goes after wealth, honor, pleasure, wisdom, power, and knowledge. Jesus says, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again" (Jn 4:13).
I have here a bottle of something. You Cadets know what this is? It is a bottle of Gatorade. Now, this stuff is amazing. Athletes swear by it. It is supposed to satisfy your thirst better than anything else in the whole wide world. The label makes an absolutely amazing claim: it will satisfy your thirst, no matter what. Drink this before a marathon and you don't have to take another sip during the 26 mile run. Drink a bottle of this before a bike ride and you are good for a hundred miles. Do you believe that? Of course not! Not even Gatorade would make such an outrageous claim. No matter what you drink before you start a marathon or a 100-mile bike ride or a 10 mile hike, you always need to keep on drinking during the event. "Everyone who drinks this will be thirsty again."
Compare this with the water that Jesus gives. About this water Jesus says:
(John 4:14) ... 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.Christ alone can quench our thirst. He alone can meet the deepest need of our heart, our soul, our person.
Topic: PovertyThe irony of ancient Israel and the tragedy around us today is that God, the fountain of living water, is right here and people don't draw from Him.
Title: Lower Your Buckets
The Amazon River is the largest river in the world. The mouth is 90 miles across. There is enough water to exceed the combined flow of the Yangtze, Mississippi and Nile Rivers. So much water comes from the Amazon that they can detect its currents 200 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. One irony of ancient navigation is that sailors in ancient times died for lack of water... caught in windless waters of the South Atlantic. They were adrift, helpless, dying of thirst. Sometimes other ships from South America who knew the area would come alongside and call out, "What is your problem?" And they would exclaim, "Can you spare us some water? Our sailors are dying of thirst!" And from the other ship would come the cry, "Just lower your buckets. You are in the mouth of the mighty Amazon River."
C Cadets, come to Jesus. Drink from Him. Do not reject Him. For if you die in your sins your eternal cry will be the moan of the damned who say and cry, "I am thirsty."
The Bible tells us that in the Lake of Fire the lost suffer the flames of God's wrath for ever and ever with nothing to quench their thirst. If Christ cries, "I am thirsty," after He suffers the wrath of God for three hours, what is the state of those who have to endure it to all eternity?! When millions of years have gone by, ten millions more lie ahead. There is an everlasting thirst in hell for which there is no relief. Remember the awful words of the rich man in hell:
(Luke 16:24) Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.In hell he craved one drop – he would have given anything for one drop of water. Again I say, come to Jesus and drink of Him Who is the living water.
III Water for Unexpected People
We are told in verse 4 that Jesus "had to go through Samaria." But why? When you look at a map you see Jesus had other routes He could have taken – easier routes, shorter routes, more traveled routes. In fact, no self-respecting Jew took the route through Samaria. Instead, they would rather go out of their way by crossing the Jordan than go through the territory of the hated and despised Samaritans. So why did Jesus have to go through Samaria?
This was part of His ministry, His mission, to the lost. The lesson here is that the ministry of Jesus is not to be limited just to Judea and Galilee; it also included Samaria. And, the water of life is to be offered not only to Judeans and Galileans; it was also to be offered to Samaritans. And, Jesus focused not just on men; He also spent time with women. And, Jesus' did not focus on the morally pure and upright; He reached out to someone who had run through five husbands and was now living common-law with another man.
In the same way as Jesus reached out to someone unexpected – a five-time divorcee, a woman, a Samaritan – so He reaches out to us with the water of life. And, in the same way we need to offer the water of life to the most unexpected of people. It is not for us to say who is receptive to the Gospel. It is not for us to determine who is worthy of the Gospel treasure. It is not for us to limit our testimony and witnessing to certain peoples and places.
"I am thirsty," says the Lord as He hangs on the cross for our sins.
"I am thirsty," says the Samaritan woman as she looks for stability and security in life.
"I am thirsty," says the natural man and woman as they look for meaning and purpose in life.
"I was thirsty," says any Christian who has come to Jesus, and found in Him the well of living water.
My hope and my prayer, boys, is that you have come to Jesus and found in Him the living water, the water of life, that quenches the thirst of your soul.
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