Exodus 17:1-7; Ps. 95:1-9; Rom. 5:1-8; John 4:5-30, 39-42
Water, Jesus answered [the woman], “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me to drink,’ you rather would have asked him, and he would have given to you living water… [W]hoever should drink from the water that I myself shall give to him will never thirst forever. Rather, the water that I shall give to him will become in him a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this [running] water, that I do not thirst nor have to keep making the trip here to draw [water]” (vv. 10, 14-15).
Last Sunday Nicodemus, a teacher of the Pharisees, was unable to comprehended Jesus’ instruction for salvation; a new begetting from God by water and word for hearing the voice of the Spirit from Jesus, the incarnate Torah of God. Nicodemus neither discerned the times nor the signs in Jesus.
When taught the absolute necessityof water and Spirit baptism (Jn. 3:5-7) Nicodemus departed to the night. On the other hand, the voice of the Spirit opened the Samaritan woman’s ears for understanding Jesus as source of God’s “living water”, and to witness to Christ as the One in whom God is worshiped in Spirit and Truth (4:30, 39).
At this point in our Lenten journey to Jesus’ passion, we review Baptism’s necessity. John’s Gospel is pregnant with the overarching theme of Baptism in the NT epoch of God’s salvation in Christ:
1) In the Jordan, Jesus received the Spirit in water, presaging his conflict with Satan and atoning blood as sacrificial Lamb for the new creation and new Israel;
2) On display at Cana was Jesus’ chief of signs; changing OT water for symbolic washings to real wedding wine for consumption; John the Evangelist, observed this, the manifestation of Jesus’ glory and source of apostolic belief (2:11);
3) Jesus, source of purifying “living water” cleansed the old temple of its former cultic sacrifices to make way for departure to God’s new place of worship in Spirit and Truth, the crucified and risen body of his Son (vv. 19, 20);
4) To Nicodemus Jesus asserted Baptism’s imperative, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is begotten from water and [the] Spirit (i.e., from above), he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (v. 5);
5) JB signaled Jesus’ Baptism as replacing his own mere water baptism; “it is necessary that he increase; I on the other hand, must decrease” (3:30) warning “[W]hoever disobeys the Son will not see life” (v. 36b).
Baptism makes a demand: either one departs Jesus and his teaching, as Nicodemus; or we “listen” to Jesus for belief, beseeching him to abide as our place of worship.
Today, Jesus sought a drink of water from a foreign woman at Jacob’s well, a place of biblical romance and betrothal (Gen. 24:1-67; 29:1-30; Ex. 2:15-22). Jesus engages the woman, teaching her of his “living water”, gift of the HS for eternal life; just rejected by Nicodemus. At first like Nicodemus, the woman failed to comprehend Jesus’ words, she hears only potable “running water”.
Once again Jesus and his audience talk past one another; that is, until the Spirit at the water-well penetrates the woman’s heart. The Apostles return; and the woman leaves on mission, witnessing to her neighbors, Jesus is Christ. The town hearing her testimony came at her word and enlightened (begotten) from above desired only that Jesus remain.
It is interesting that St. John locates the first confession of Jesus as “Christ” and “Son of God”, not with Peter (Mt. 16:16; cf. Jn. 6:69); but with this Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and with Martha at brother Lazarus’ tomb (11:27).
Jesus is not only source of our new begetting from above; but source of the first creation’s transforming water. Before the man’s formation, a mist watered the earth (Gen 2:6). The dust of the earth without moisture is not suitable for fashioning, and thus definitional of death, “remember, dust you are and to dust you shall return” (3:19b). It was from watered dust that God formed man with the moisture of his breathed Life by the HS (2:7).
Now in the NT epoch, Jesus from the cross’ is again source of our watering with the Spirit and his blood for his church (9:4; Lev. 17:11; Jn. 19:30b, 34). On the day of his Resurrection, Jesus breathed the Spirit into the faces of his apostolic church (Jn. 20:22) re-forming us to God’s image and his likeness in faith.
The centrality of all Scripture is the church’s baptismal faith and life; yet some, as Israel’s desert rebellion, reject God’s gracious “living water”. By partaking of Baptism’s “living water” God binds himself to us in his Son’s sacrifice for our sin; by Baptism we participate in his faith, accounted righteous for purity before God. So, by Baptism you are sons and daughters in water, word, and blood-sprinkling from the HS.
The church encounters resistance to Baptism. After ancient Israel’s salvation through the Red Sea to a new identity and bonding with God, like the Samaritan woman wanting to avoid drudgery, the people complained for lack of simple potable water.
Israel, grumbling over potable water failed to conceive or trust in their elevated spiritual relation with God their savior. M. Luther succinctly gives Israel’s grumble proper perspective, “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word” (Small Catechism, Sacrament of Holy Baptism, first part, “What is Holy Baptism?).
In the wilderness Israel had no notion of a better drink and feeding than that maintaining a “dust to dust” existence. The Law had not yet been delivered; still Israel’s sin was ingratitude, receipt of God’s undeserved “living water” from the rock of Meribah and Massah without thanksgiving.
Of the water from the rock, St. Paul (1 Cor. 10:4) says it represented Christ, our spiritual Rock. Moses was commanded to strike the rock, a type of Jesus stricken on the cross, source of the church’s faith and purity in the Spirit.
Before death, Jesus croaked his words, “I thirst”(Jn. 19:28) only to receive mocking vinegar from the soldiers. In Lent headed to Jesus’ passion and Baptism, we hunger and thirst for what he gives in our risen NT Temple of his crucified body, the festive wedding wine reserved for last.
On completion of his work on behalf of the Father, Jesus inclined toward his mother and the disciple he loved; tandem representatives of his NT church awaiting the Resurrection. There the woman and St. John beheld a strange glory, Jesus’ enthroned into kingship from whence he rules in handing-over the HS to the Father.
As Moses was commanded in the desert, a soldier was commanded to spear-strike Jesus, the Rock of our salvation, for releasing the “living water” and our wedding wine from his side for the joy of his betrothed.
Such is the church’s baptismal exchange; our sin and desert thirst for faith’s drinking from a spring welling and gushing-up in us to eternal life, the gift of the HS from the Father and his Son. Amen.