In the Broadway show “Les Miserables” Fantine sings a sad song…it is a lament for her lost youth, lost beauty, and lost innocence she sings. I had a dream that life would be so different than the hell I am living. So different now than what it seemed now life has killed the dream I dreamed. What causes such despair? Have you ever felt like that? Would the words of this song describe you? I think they would describe the woman in our gospel today. I think she could easily sing this song.
Our gospel today is full of strange and wonderful things. First, Jesus is acting very strange. Look where he goes, to Schechem, a Samaritan town. This would be like a modern day Rabbi going to Gaza (Palestinians). The Samaritans and the Jews stayed away from each other. Jesus stops by a well there and sends his disciples away. It would seem he is setting the whole thing up. A lone woman comes to draw water, a woman whose name we never know.
By her coming alone at noon to the well, we learn everything we need to know about her. First, she is alone and it is noon. Women always went to the well in a group. It was unheard of for a woman to be alone. Secondly, they would always go early in the morning, or in the evening, never at mid-day, the sun was too hot. So, we can tell that this woman is an outcast. The respectable woman of the town would not want to be seen with her. Jesus asks the woman for a drink, by doing so he is breaking the law.
It was not acceptable for a man to speak to a woman alone. He would also become ritually impure by drinking from her cup. Even the woman asks how a Jew can ask a Samaritan for water. Jesus responds, 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. The story of living water is a drama about faith. And we see how an individual and a community come to believe in Christ. As always, the Lord takes the initiative.
He speaks and a woman begins to sip living water. Without knowing it, yes, the pieces of her life start to fit. She knows only that the Messiah is coming and Jesus tells her. I who speak to you am He, He even uses of Himself the title of Divinity…I am. Still not sure who Jesus is, the woman rushes from the well to the city crying breathlessly to all she meets. Come see a man who told me all that I ever did, can this be the Christ? Not certainty, but a touch of hope, can this be Christ?
And the drama of belief expands, someone who knows everything this much married woman ever did, this they have to see. They rush out to see the Prodigy for themselves. Once they see Him, they ask Him to stay for two days. Many of the Samaritans have already believed in Him on the woman’s witness. Many more believe because of His word. They say, we have heard for ourselves and we know, that this indeed is the Savior of the World.
What does this beautiful story say to us? Does it occur to you that it is not only Samaritans who should recognize Jesus and ask Him for living water? Every man and woman must, you and I must. Oh yes, you have already tasted it. Otherwise, you would not be here. You have been touched by God’s word, and the Holy Spirit lives in you. So many things claim our attention. From sports, health, work, all good in themselves. But so often, Christ takes a back seat.
We only think about Him on Sunday or during a crisis. Somehow, the Christ who mesmerized the woman at the well must grab us, turn us on. It is not a matter of academic knowledge. You must know Him, not only about Him. But really know Him as you know your closest friend. The Samaritan woman did not hide her living water. Like a bottle of Perrier in the fridge. She left her water jar, jetted back to the town. Grabbed everyone and said, come and see.
This amazing man, could he be the one we have been waiting for? She became an apostle, she brought the message of Jesus to the people. She knew she shared with them her own experience of Him. She urged them to go see for themselves. They went, they brought Him back with them, they spent two days in His company. They heard the word from His very lips and many believed because of her. That fallen woman who became an apostle because she spent time with the Lord. And all the pieces of her life came together.
I suspect that what impelled the Samaritans’ rush to the well was not simply the woman’s confession He told me all that I ever did. It was the fact that she had changed, something had happened to her. This woman with five husbands had all the excitement. All the glow, of someone who has fallen in love for the first time. My friends, when you ask for living water you are taking a great risk. You are asking God to change you, to transform you in the image of His Christ.
To redirect you tomorrow onto roads you cannot map, or even control. And there is great risk, because it means we start to change. But we might feel we are beyond our depth. In one of Graham Green’s novels, there is a dialogue between an American professor and a Trappist monk. The professor asks the monk, “Father, why did you become a Trappist? The life is so hard, there are so many easier ways of following the Lord.” And the monk replies, “I think you know, professor, that when one has to jump. It is so much safer to jump into deep water, so much safer to jump into deep water.”