Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR
Third Sunday in Lent + March 19, 2017
Text: John 4:5-26
Jesus gives us a good conscience before God by
hearing our confession and forgiving our sins.
- The Samaritan woman was doubly guilty.
Samaritans were outcasts of Israel, the prodigals who had set up a rival temple in Samaria. “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” They knew they were wrong in God’s sight, but they were too proud to repent and come back. Besides, even if they did, who in Israel would receive them?
- That’s her ancestry, but her own life is a mess too.
She herself had sin she was hiding from others (but not from God).
She comes to the well when nobody else is around to stare at her or confront her. 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
She needed to be free from human fixes for sin, because they cannot solve the real problem.
We too look for human fixes, spiritual Band-Aids if you will—harmful ones like drugs and alcohol, cutting and fits of rage; constructive ones like psychotherapy and antidepressants. But none of those can touch the soul and address our spiritual condition. They leave us guilty before God if they are our only solution.
- Jesus gave her living water.
The way to peace with God is through confession of sin:
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
Psalm 32:3-5: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
Confession can’t be substituted—either by working harder, avoiding personal contact, or by staying away from church. These things only make things worse. They draw out the guilt unnecessarily and leave room for Satan to give you reasons why you can worship God in the privacy of your home.
25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
The absolution which Jesus brings also can’t wait and dare not be uncertain—“Perhaps God forgives me, or I’ll find out if I get into heaven.” The woman wanted to put absolute truth off until Messiah comes, but Jesus was no prophet. He was God, and the words which He speaks actually do bring salvation.
The words of Jesus gave her peace with God, as is evidenced by her going and proclaiming him publicly to her neighbors.
28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.
- Jesus gives you living water.
- He is well aware of your sin. He knows your depravity better than you do (or want to admit). “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.” (Ps. 139:1-2)
- A peaceful conscience with God can’t come in the privacy of your own thoughts. The Word of God comes from outside of you, and is best delivered when it is spoken to you by someone else. That Word is able to speak peace to you when your heart can’t: “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” (1 John 3:20-21)
- This is also why Jesus instituted confession and absolution:
20 …he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:20-23)
Here in the words spoken by a pastor, your Lord points you back to His death and resurrection, to your Baptism. In the waters made living by the Word of God, you died to all of your sin, and you were raised to eternal life. Just as we sang in the 3rd stanza of Rock of Ages:
Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die. (LSB 761:3)
Thanks be to Jesus for that blessed washing away of sins. Amen!