The people of Israel in the Book of Exodus are a rum old lot. They have been saved from slavery and misery in Egypt, and all they can do is complain and find fault. People can be strange, stubborn infuriating creatures. We can I hope recognise something of ourselves in them: stubborn, wilful, and sinful. But lest we get too disheartened it is important to recognise that Moses strikes the rock at Horeb, as the Lord commands him, and out flows water. As St Paul puts it ‘For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.’ (1Cor 10:4 ESV) This water, like the parted water of the Red Sea prefigures Christ, the living water, and our baptism, through which we enter the Church. Through it we are regenerate, born again to eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, whose side was pierced on Calvary, and whence flowed blood and water. This water speaks to us of the grace of God poured out upon us, his people, to heal us and restore us, to help us live his risen life.
So as we continue our Lenten pilgrimage, we can do so joyfully because God’s love has been poured into our hearts — what matters is what has been done to us, by God, out of love, so that we can be like him. He is the reconciliation which achieves what we cannot: restoring our relationship with God and each other, healing our wounds, and giving us eternal life in Him. This is our faith as Christians, which can help us and strengthen us in times of uncertainty, such as we are living in today. Christ died for us, because God loves us, and we can trust in that.
Picture the scene — it’s the middle of the day, the sun is blazing overhead, he’s been walking for hours, days even. Jesus is tired — as a man, a human being, he is no different from you or me — he ate and drank, he was thirsty.. Mid-day is certainly no time to be drawing water from a well — it’s something you do first thing in the morning, as the sun is rising. What sort of a woman is drawing water at mid-day? Hardly a respectable one, but rather someone shunned, someone beyond the pale, cast out of polite society as an adulteress who is living in sin. Jesus asks the woman for a drink — Jesus is defying a social convention — He’s breaking the rules. The woman is really surprised — Jews are supposed to treat Samaritans as outcasts, they are beyond the pale: treated something like the Roma in Eastern Europe – outcasts, second class, scum, to be despised and looked down upon. And yet Jesus asks her for water, he initiates the conversation and the encounter, with an outsider, to bring her in.
Jesus offers her living water, so that she may never be thirsty again. The woman desires it, so that she will never be thirsty again, or have to come to the well to draw water, she’s fed up of the work, and fed up of being an outcast, and having to do it at antisocial hours when the community can see who and what she is. Jesus knows who and what she is – He recognises her irregular lifestyle. He also sees her need of God — her need for the water of grace to restore her soul, and inspire her to tell people the Good News. The woman’s testimony is powerful because she has experienced God’s love as a living reality and she simply has to tell people about it. She brings them to Christ so that they can be nourished, so that they too can experience the grace of God.
People are interested in who and what Jesus is, what He’s got to say, and they believe and trust in Him as the Messiah the Anointed of God, as the Saviour of the World, a title recently taken up by the Roman Emperor. These are big claims to make, and dangerous ones, which along with Christ’s healings will soon lead to His condemnation and death. In plenty of parts of the world the proclamation of the Good News still leads to imprisonment, torture and death, even today. And yet as Christians we are called to bear witness regardless of the personal cost, so that the world may believe. Here in the West we have as a church become comfortable, we forget about persecution, or view it at a safe distance. We’re not involved, it doesn’t matter that much to us. Are we far from the grace of our baptism? Have we not encountered Jesus in Word and Sacrament? Are we too afraid of the World? The world which Christ overcomes on the Cross.
To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often. If we are changing into Jesus Christ, then we’re on the right track. If we listen to His word; if we talk to Him in prayer and let him talk to us; if we’re fed by Him in the Eucharist, by Christ both priest and victim, to become what He is — God; if we’re forgiven by Him, through making confession of our sins, not only do we come to understand Jesus, we become like him, we come to share in his divine nature. We, the People of God, the new humanity, enter into the divine fullness of life, we have a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. This is what we are preparing to celebrate at Easter. Christ gives us the living water of baptism, and His Body and Blood so that we might have the promise of eternal life, and be transformed into His likeness. This is the point of the Incarnation, God becomes human, so that humanity can share the life of God.
The Samaritans are right, for they know that, ‘that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.’ (Jn 4:42 ESV), and they like St Paul can rejoice in their sufferings, and so can we, because God has given us hope, and poured His love into our hearts, the love that casts out fear. Whatever happens, we can put our trust in someone who will never disappoint us, whose promises are sure, and who loves us. So let us come to Him, let us trust Him that He may take us and fill us with His love so that we may share it with others so that the world may believe and sing the praises of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed, as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen