Listen to it or download it: The Third Sunday in Lent: “Searching for the Bride”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Last week we heard about Jesus, the Light of the world. The Light shone in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it! (John 1:5). He goes out searching for His people lost in the darkness; Nicodemus comes to Him in the darkness, at night, and Jesus sheds the light of His Word on him and He tells him about a new birth, from above, by the power of the Holy Spirit, by means of water. This week we hear about Jesus, the Bridegroom. John the Baptizer says, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom” (John 3:29). Jesus, the Bridegroom, goes out searching for His Bride.
And it seems that He’ll search just about anywhere, even Samaria. Most Jews would do just about anything to avoid Samaria; they would go from Galilee all the way around Samaria to get to Jerusalem. Not Jesus. He goes right through the middle of it. And, tired from His searching, He sits down by a well. Now that may seem to be an insignificant detail, but not if you recall the history of Israel. Jacob was by a well when he saw his bride, Rachel (Genesis 29); Moses was by a well when he saw his bride, Zipporah (Exodus 2); and Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24). Abraham made his servant swear that he would not take a bride for his son, Isaac, from among the idolatrous Canaanites, but that he would go back to Abraham’s homeland and get a bride from there. His servant swears that he will do so, and travels back to Haran. And there he sits down by a well. And while he’s waiting, he prays: “Yahweh, if you have shown favor to your servant, my lord, Abraham, then let the woman who comes out to draw water, to whom I say, ‘Give me a drink from your water jar,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and let me water your camels also,’ let that be a sign that she is the bride you have chosen for Isaac, and that you have been gracious to my lord Abraham” (Genesis 24:10-15). Rebekah comes out from the village to draw water, and the servant says, “Give me a drink from your water jar,” and she says, “Drink, and let me water your camels also.”
A woman from the Samaritan village comes out to draw water, and Jesus says to her, “Give Me a drink.” But she is no Rebekah. She might even be called the “anti-Rebekah.” Rebekah, we are told, is a virgin, whom no man has ever known. (Let the hearer understand.) This woman has had five husbands, and the one she now has is not her husband. And she does not say, “Drink, and let me water your camels also.” She says, “Why are you talking to me? Why are you, a Jewish man, talking to me, a Samaritan woman?” And John fills us in: Jews and Samaritans didn’t have anything to do with each other. But Jesus is not the servant of Abraham, either. He says, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” She said, “Where do get that water? You don’t have anything to draw with, and the well is deep. Are you greater than our father Jacob, who dug this well, and gave it to his son, and drank from it, and watered his flocks and herds from it?” Are You greater than our father Jacob? Now there’s a good question: Are You greater than Israel? Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks from this well will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I will give him will never be thirsty forever. And the water I give will become in him a spring of water welling up unto eternal life.” And she says, “Give me that water! So I don’t have to be thirsty anymore and have to keep coming here to draw water.” She is like Israel in the days of Jeremiah the prophet. God said, “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the source, the fountain, of living water, and have hewed out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, broken wells, which cannot hold any water” (Jeremiah 2:13). Oh, this woman’s been digging some wells. She’s digging wells all over the place, trying to satisfy her thirst with all these relationships. But it’s not working, and now she’s pretty much given up. She hasn’t even bothered to get married. What’s the point? She thinks she will never satisfy her thirst. But she hasn’t given up all hope: she says, “I know that Messiah is coming, and when He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus says, “I, who speak to you, am He.” Jesus proposes to her that she drink the living water He gives, rather than from poisoned wells. And she leaves her water jar by the well and goes back to the village. She says, “Come see a Man who told me everything I ever did. He can’t be the Messiah, can He?” And the people come out and talk to Jesus. They invite Him to stay, and He does, for two days. And on the third day, there’s a wedding: the people said, “We no longer believe only because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we believe that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain and source of living water, and they have hewed out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold any water. And, oh, we’ve been digging wells, haven’t we? We dig them all over the place, trying to satisfy our thirst. And our world is all too ready to offer that water to us: drink this beer; wear these clothes; watch these movies and TV shows; listen to this music; do these things. It’s all about you. And so we try to fill up our broken jars: we fill up our houses with stuff, we fill up our schedules, we fill ourselves with relationships. And we drink, but it’s just poisoned water. It will kill us. And we know better, but we can’t seem to help ourselves.
And Jesus comes searching for His Bride. It seems He’ll search just about anywhere—even in Fisher, Minnesota; even in Euclid, Minnesota. He’ll search anywhere people have forsaken God, the source of living water, and tried to satisfy their thirst from their own broken wells. He searches and searches and searches, and when He’s weary from searching, He doesn’t sit down by a well, He goes up on a cross. And there, the Man who stood up on the last and great day of the Feast and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink, and out of his heart will flow rivers of living water, the Holy Spirit,” (John 7:37-39)—that One, hanging on the cross, said, “I thirst” (John 19:28). He poured out His life for all the thirsty; the Lamb who was slain is the Shepherd who leads His flock to springs of living water (Revelation 7:17); He says, to the thirsty I will give from the spring of living water, as a free gift, without money and without cost, because the cost has already been paid (Revelation 21:6). Jesus was there, buried for two days, and on the third day, there was a wedding. There was a resurrection, and Jesus gathered His Bride to Himself. He did it by means of water; there, He put the ring on your finger.
“Come to Calv’ry’s holy mountain/sinners ruined by the fall/here a pure and healing fountain/flows for you, for me, for all/in a full, perpetual tide, opened when our Savior died” (LSB 435:1). John tells us that water and blood flowed from His side where the soldier pierced Him with the spear, flowing to satisfy the thirst of the whole world forever, welling up in you to eternal life. This is the Rock of Ages cleft for you; hide yourself in Him. Your Bridegroom waits here for you every single week, ready and willing to give you living water in His Word and Sacrament; come and drink from the well. Your Bridegroom is coming, and you will see Him in all His glory; and He will reveal you, clothed in His blood and righteousness, adorned as a Bride for her Husband. And on that resurrection day, a wedding feast will begin that will go on and on forever. And today, He gives you a preview, a taste of that feast in His own Body and Blood.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/29/11