As we continue on this Lenten walk with Jesus that will bring us to Good Friday and Easter morning,
we look up to signposts which raise questions that are not meant to immobilize us, but to explore the answers that will help us walk to the beat and pace of the life of Jesus. Today we listen in on a conversation He is having with a woman at a well, not just any well but the one where Jacob was reported to have watered his flocks centuries earlier, a well now over the Judean border in the region called Samaria.
Jesus has just come from the other side with its lush natural spring supplying the water for John the Baptizer and the watery moment that was like an inaugural ceremony to launch Jesus into His ministry.
Since the temple authorities are starting to be suspicious of His every move, Jesus decides it is better to head upcountry to Galilee and set up His headquarters along Capernaum’s lake.
He chooses to take the short route that passes through Samaria, which for us is like being a Christian deciding to walk through Syria; as the Gospels note, Samaritans have no dealings with Jews nor Jews with Samaritans, whom Jews judge to be half-breeds of the Hebrew faith and race.
It’s a walk without waterholes and without the promise of hospitality; Jesus is weary and thirsty, and so He stops at Jacob’s well at noontime while he sends His disciples off to find food for lunch. It’s there that the conversation begins with a local woman who sees He has no cup; yet he says to her:
Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,
but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.
The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’
It’s that scene and conversation which post the third question along the Lenten walk with Jesus:
“What Do You See When You Look FORWARD?”
Look forward, beyond our need for water, which we know is essential to digest food, eliminate waste, keep fluid in our tissues and organs, lubricate the spinal cord and joints, and therefore, we must consume about 2 and one-half quarts of fluid a day, because our body is approximately 60 percent, our brain 70 percent, and our lungs nearly 90 percent water. When a high fever or malnutrition deprives our body of water, we may appear feeble and mentally unbalanced. Yes, water is essential to being able to function, and without it we can die from thirst.
It is the thirst Jesus has after that long walk along a road with no springs, no waterholes, no hospitality; and it is a thirst that will become even more intense, more unbearable, when He is raised on that Good Friday cross, where He will cry out, “I thirst!” only to have a pole with a filthy, vinegar soaked sponge raised to His lips. Jesus knows what it is to be thirsty!
But He also looks forward to another thirst, the kind of seemingly unquenchable thirst that has the Samaritan woman craving for Jesus’ “living water,”
that will eliminate all her wrong choices and impossible-to-
change situations – failed marriages, abusive relationships,
social judgments that send her to draw water in the heat of the day,
when no one is there to shun her, ostracize her, and expel her from family and community.
Her other kind of thirst for forgiveness and acceptance, which has her begging, “Sir, give me this water.” –
the water that gushes up to eternal life…the unending eternity of God’s refreshing presence.
And so, this Sunday’s Lenten question:
“What Do You See When You Look FORWARD?”
The forward look to see Jesus Who is offering Himself to the woman whose soul is burning up from a raging fever of sin, and whose body is suffering from malnutrition and the empty cup of rejection.
The forward look that has us seeing the same Jesus knows all about us, our sins, our severed and maybe abusive relationships, our being alienated from family and friends, on and off the job, in school –
our being treated as though we do not exist,
a shunning that has us shriveling up inside…
until we take this Lenten walk that has us looking FORWARD,
to the Source of the promised “living water” –
at the Good Friday well where Jesus’ life is poured out to become a gushing spring of love
to quench our thirst for forgiveness, our longing for acceptance, and our need to know we are welcomed
into the embrace of God, and held in the company of all God’s people.
The forward look that makes it possible to go back to the real world of our present day Samaria and Judea,
because we have a Font to remind us that God’s love in Christ has been poured over us as a sign of God’s Spirit within us; and we have a Table set with bread and cup that has us savoring a sampling of the great banquet that is to come;
the forward look that sustains us for the living of these days, until that Day.
A story that circulates via email from time to time tells of the buzzard when put in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and open at the top, although able to fly, will be a prisoner, because a buzzard begins its flight from the ground with a running start of 10 to 12 feet,
and so, it will make no attempt to fly.
The ordinary bat, a remarkably nimble night flyer, cannot take off from a level place. If put on the floor, it hopelessly shuffles around until it painfully reaches some elevation from which it can throw itself into the air.
Then it takes off like a flash.
The bumblebee if dropped into a tumbler will seek a way out from the bottom and never see it can escape from the top.
Eventually it dies.
Like all three we humans struggle about in our problems, not knowing there is an escape route; all we need to do is look in the right direction.
Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks forward..
to hear Jesus saying to us what He says to the Samaritan woman, … those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty-
the water of His life poured out from the spring of the cross. And so, the question,
“What Do You See When You Look FORWARD?” Amen.