Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | March 20, 2011

Sermon on John 4:10-14

If only you knew…because of Jesus you do!

Lessons:  Genesis 12:1-8, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17, John 4:5-26

Hymns (from Christian Worship): 353, 106, 529, 309, 395

Downloadable version

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”  Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

“If only I had known,” you lament.  “If only I had known that this was the last day of the sale.”  “If only I had known that my favorite movie was on.”  “If only I had known you were in town.”  “If only I had known that this was going to be the last time I saw you.”  “If only I had known…” but you didn’t.  So says Christ to this Samaritan:  “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink…but you don’t.”

She knew a lot, though, didn’t she?  She knew that Jacob dug this well.  She knew the greatness of her forefathers.  She knew of the hatred between Jews and Samaritans.  She quizzed Christ on one of the great theological disputes, I can see that you are a prophet, she said to Jesus. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem. She even knew of the coming Messiah, I know that Messiah…is coming.  When He comes He will explain everything to us. Yes, she was conversant in the spirituality of the day, perhaps even quite spiritual herself.  She identified Jesus as a prophet because of His mystical words.  She was spiritual, though not so spiritual as to stop divorcing husbands or living in sin with her boyfriend.  And so Jesus says, “If only you knew…”

There’s a lot of this kind of spirituality going around, isn’t there?  People want high emotion and deep meditation.  They want supernatural experiences.  It’s not shocking to see people go from Pentecostal church to Pentecostal church, from cult to cult, from fad to fad, from Eastern religion to Eastern religion, mixing and matching more and more and more, because they can’t yet scratch their itch.  They’re searching for the divine within them all, like Indiana Jones’ Holy Grail, not to mention the spirituality that will let them keep living the way they’ve always lived.  And Jesus says, “If only you knew…”

We hear preachers like Rob Bell, who’s made such a splash with his new book abolishing hell as the Bible teaches it, declaring that heaven and hell are here and now, and so all people, regardless of faith in Christ will go to heaven.  Bell rehashes the teachings of the church father Origen who surmised that all would end up in heaven.  Which is regurgitated for you by the Roman Catholic Church, when Pope Benedict XVI says hell is a state of mind here, or when the Second Vatican Council declares that those who do their best – Jews, Muslims, whatever – who find God according to their own way, also have salvation.  Just be spiritual.  You worship on Mt. Gerazim, we’ll worship in Jerusalem, and we’ll all find God in the end.  Don’t be so religious, man, let’s just get spiritual!  And Jesus says, “If you only knew…”

If you only knew that being spiritual isn’t enough.  This Samaritan woman knew about Messiah, she knew about worship!  But she was ignorant of truth and living in depravity.  Her knowledge hadn’t driven her to sorrow and repentance.  There was no law and gospel here.  There was only, “Do what you’d like, find your own way.”  And she found a way, the glittering road to hell.  Like the rich man Jesus once taught about, when she died, she’d be shocked at what she learned, I am in agony in this fire (Luke 16:24). That’s where Jesus-less spirituality gets you.  “If you only knew…”

But, just knowing Jesus isn’t enough.  Just knowing that the Bible talks about spiritual things isn’t enough.  Being spiritual isn’t enough.  That’s still not faith.  This woman gets to know Jesus.  She asks for the water He offers.  But it’s still not faith to ask God for stuff.  Faith is trust, hope, confidence in Christ as the Messiah, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Living Water to eternal life, the One from Abraham Who blesses all nations.  And this woman, for all she did know, didn’t know this.  If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink…but you don’t.”

So often, when you say, “If only I had known…” it’s too late, already, isn’t it?  The sale is done, the movie’s over, the friend is back up north, the beloved is dead or gone.  And in spiritual terms, that time comes too.  It came for the rich man.  Father Abraham told him that the chasm was fixed.  He told the rich man that He had had Moses and the Prophets during his life.  It was too late.  Man dies once and then faces judgment.  That rich man cried out, “If only I had known…”

And Jesus tells.  He could quite easily have taken a drink from this woman, got up and walked away.  He had no reason to open His mouth and ask for anything more than a drink here.  This was a five-times-divorced woman living with her boyfriend.  This was a Samaritan woman whose Bible wasn’t complete, whose view of the Messiah was likely skewed towards the political.  This was a woman who was spiritual, but in no way religious.  And really no different than any one of you.  If you’re humble enough to remove the plank from your own eye, you’ll see that you’re a Samaritan too.  Maybe it’s not five divorces and a live-in lover; maybe it’s only one.  Maybe it’s some dry spirituality, a secret hope that you can worship God and dabble in Eastern mysticism too, or that God’s Word’s aren’t really as strict as they seem, or as your pastor makes them out to be.  What about you causes Christ to do anything more than ask you for a drink and move on His way?

If you knew the gift of God…if only you had known.  She didn’t.  You didn’t.  And neither of you could, by your own thinking or choosing.  So Jesus tells you.  He sat with this Samaritan woman before she was even a believer and told her about the living water while she was still dehydrated.  Not because she earned or deserved it, but out of His great love for her.  And for you.  This is the gift of God, totally and completely free, not earned, not deserved.  For no other reason than that His heart desires the salvation of all people, Christ happily gave a drink to this woman.  He revealed the gift of God to this woman living in sin.  He took her from her weak spirituality to the God who is Spirit and truth so that she might worship Him in spirit and truth.  From His lips came the water she needed:  Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. She sips.  The water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. She drinks.  Salvation comes from the Jews. She drinks more deeply.  I who speak to you am He. She’s full.

In Christ and through Christ you know the gift of God.  And that gift is Christ Himself.  The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). I who speak to you am He – He who spoke of water, let that water pour out His side on the cross with His atoning blood, let that water pour out so abundantly upon you in Baptism.  Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. Drink this world’s water and you die.  Man does not live on bread alone.  Drink this world’s spiritual water and you die.  Rob Bell, Origen, the Pope, they’re not wet with living water, they’re dry and parched wastelands, as St. Peter prophesied.  Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Oh, what a promise!  “Whoever!”  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16)!  Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)!  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life (John 6:53)! Here is Spirit and truth – it’s the crucified Christ, who died for your sins, who rose for your justification.  Faith alone in Christ is the living water welling up to eternal life. Christ alone blesses all nations, because Christ alone lived and died for all nations, Christ alone rose from the dead for all nations, Christ alone is the Way, Truth, and Life, the only spirituality, the only religion, the only way to God the Father and heaven.  With Christ, there’s no reason to say, “If I had only known….” You do.  He told you.  He’s telling you.  He’s quenching your thirst.  He sends you preachers.  He gives you to drink of His blood for forgiveness.  He waters your Baptized bodies day after day after day.  If you knew the gift of God…because of Jesus you do.  Amen.



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