Third Sunday of Lent : I’ll Let You In On This.

Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11.

John 4:5-42.

Jesus was going through Samaria.  For many if not most Jews, this was an odd side trip.  It was not strange for Galileans, since the way to Jerusalem passed through it. The road came near the town Sychar, outside of which was the land Jacob gave to Joseph, where Jacob’s Well was. Jesus came there to rest from a tiring long day’s walk. His disciples had gone to get food. The well was still in daily use, providing water to those who lived nearby. So, a woman from nearby came to draw water from the well. (This was a hard task that women had to do every day: travel to get the water, then lift to fill jugs, then carry the jugs back home.)  Jesus then asked her to get him a drink.  The request surprised her, since it was clear Jesus was a Jew and he was asking a favor from a Samaritan. A rare thing indeed, such was the hate Jews had for them.

But this was more than a request for help in quenching thirst. It was an attempt to start a conversation (Jews didn’t do that, either). Jesus drew her further in by talking about ‘living water’.  Now, to her, that phrase meant water that was moving, perhaps in a current deep at the bottom of the well.  But Jesus meant something different: water of which, once you drink it, you will never thirst again. This interested her, for it meant never having to lug the jugs again (v.15).  To show her that he wasn’t kidding, he got into her personal life. So she was amazed; how’d he know this!

This is a prophet, she thought, someone who could speak from God about what hurts her people, so she asks questions about what separates Samaritan religion from Jewish faith.  Jesus didn’t pander by saying that Samaritans were right, because they were not, and he said so.  But then he said something truly remarkable: the day was at hand when the whole matter would be a thing of the past, where what mattered was worshiping “in spirit and truth’.

She thought, this isn’t just a prophet. Only the Messiah chosen and sent from God could tell us about it. This was exactly where Jesus was leading her with his answers. So she came out with it: ‘you’re talking like the Messiah’.

That’s when Jesus makes the most astounding statement of all: “I AM“.  This tired Jewish guy by the well, the one with the nerve to discuss high matters of faith with a woman, and a Samaritan at that, the stranger who knew what her life was like — this one speaking to her was God Himself. He let her in on the greatest secret of all. No wonder she was so excited she left her water pots behind and ran back to tell everyone.

That, of course, was what the disciples saw as they came back. Hey, what would they know?


Third Sunday in Lent

3rd Sunday in Lent devotional.
Or, hear it, as an mp3 download.

Exodus: A Warning and a Hope

Isaiah 55:1-9;
Luke 13:1-9;
1 Corinthians 10:1-13

The apostle Paul is not one to mince words. You see, he sees the great events of Hebrew history as signs for what’s happening in his day. More than signs, actually; what was true then was still true as he wrote, just in a new way.

Here, it’s Moses and the escape from Egypt. He knows no one he’s writing to was alive then. He knows many of them aren’t Jews, so their forefathers weren’t party to it. So why is he calling the Exodus a baptism? And why is he saying they all went through it? And why is he writing about spiritual food (likened to the stuff the Israelites called ‘what-is-it?’) and spiritual drink (likened to that which came from the stones)?

Because to Paul, these events gave us a foretaste of the same grace which God would show us in its fullest in Jesus, the Messiah. Something that’s most brought to mind when we share bread and wine, as Jesus did in his last supper.

So why does Paul bring up the underside of what happened in the exodus? The idolatry of the golden calf, the lack of trust they showed at Meribah, the constant grumbling and whining?

Paul says that the ancients wrote those things so that we would know better. Israel’s shining moments were also moments of shame. They thought they could stand proud, until God showed them how low they had gone. Paul’s warning to God’s people of Paul’s own time was the truth about the people of the Exodus. It is as true of us today as it ever was. God will give us a way out of temptation, but we won’t take it if we think ourselves so good that we stand on our own.

Lord, make us end our whining. Feed us your spiritual food and drink to sustain us in our material world, and lead us away from the lies of the tempter, that we may love you as we ought. Amen.

Bob Longman