Lent 3 – “If You Only Knew” – John 4:4-26 – 3/15/20

Jesus answered her, “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.”

“IF SHE HAD ONLY KNOWN.” Now there’s an epitaph you don’t want written on your tombstone. Talk about regret.

The sun rose, the rooster crowed, the man sleeping next to her snored. Just another day. “IF SHE ONLY KNEW.”

She got up, stretched, felt the familiar aches and pains. There were chores to do, meals to prepare, water to be carried in from the well on the outskirts of town. Just another day. “IF SHE ONLY KNEW.”

She walked the same path she had walked countless times. But on this same day, a man was also making his way to this same well. He was traveling to Galilee and he “HAD TO pass through Samaria.”

“HAD TO,” not as in there was no other way to get there. But “HAD TO” because there was this woman that He wanted to meet. We could just as easily say that He “HAD TO” come all the way from heaven to earth just to meet her. “IF SHE HAD ONLY KNOWN.”

“Wearied as He was from his journey, He was sitting by the well.” John is the stickler for details. This was not just any well. This was “Jacob’s well.” Jacob had dug this well centuries earlier. And the fact that it was still a viable well means that Jacob tapped into a stream or spring of water, deep underground. Moving water like that was called ‘living water,’ as opposed to standing water.

John also notes the time of day. “It was about the sixth hour.” That’s about noon when the sun is at its’ hottest.

When she arrived at the well, He was already there, sitting beside it. She says nothing to him. He speaks to her. “Give me a drink.”

It’s one of those awkward moments – like when one of those people holding a sign at the intersection that says “Homeless. Even a dollar will help. God bless you.” And the light turns red and darned if you’re not stopped right beside him. You act like you don’t see him. .

According to the social customs of the day, Jews and Samaritans were raised to be very distrusting of each other. Now, times that awkwardness by two – He’s a man and she’s a woman. What does this man really want? And now square all of that by the fact that Jews and Samaritans do not EAT or DRINK together, and he wants to drink from HER CUP?

But He’s “weary” and THIRSTY. It’s as simple as that. “Give me a drink.”

It doesn’t SEEM like a lot to ask really – does it? But she thinks it is. Or at least she intends to make a big deal out of it. “How is that you a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” There’s social customs and religious and racial prejudices at work here – all carefully designed to keep Him from getting too close to her.

He answers, “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.” “IF YOU ONLY KNEW.”

But she wants to argue with him and show him how absurd he is. “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep.” For her, it’s a PRACTICAL MATTER. He obviously doesn’t have what it takes to deliver the “living water” that feeds this well. It’s deep and He hasn’t got any rope or water jar to bring that water up to give to her.

She wants to put Him in his PROPER PLACE. “Are you greater than our father, Jacob? He gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”

But He wants to put her in her PROPER PLACE – which is with Him in His Kingdom. “And he said, ‘whoever drinks the water that I give to him will never be thirsty again. The water that I give to him will become in him A SPRING OF LIVING WATER welling up to eternal life.’”

She wants to say, “HOW CAN WATER DO SUCH GREAT THINGS?” All she sees is plain water that whoever drinks of it WILL BE THRISTY AGAIN. She doesn’t see that ONE GREATER THAN JACOB who gives Himself to her in, with and under this water and through the same, gives her “eternal life.” IF SHE HAD ONLY KNOWN.

“She said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

She still sees no further than the physical convenience of not having to make this daily hike to carry this water. She thinks of him ONLY as someone who is interested in making her life easier. As if the latest technology and a little more luxury might actually be what she has been searching for, for so long. “IF ONLY SHE KNEW.”

But maybe, just maybe, it is this woman who wants to say, “NO, IF YOU ONLY KNEW…”
 If you only knew ME.
 If you only knew how many times I’ve have been widowed, divorced, hurt, abandoned.
 If you only knew that the man I’m now living with is not my husband because he be a man and make a commitment to love and cherish me, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death parts us.
 If only you knew how lonely I am, how empty, how tired, how thirsty I am.

Up until now Jesus has been using a chisel on this hard heart. But now it’s now to bring out the sledge-hammer. “Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call you husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, “IF YOU ONLY KNEW…” “I have no husband.”

“Jesus said to her, “AH, BUT I DO KNOW.” You are right in saying you have no husband; for you have had five husbands and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

HE KNOWS ME. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” (Jer.1:5) “I am the good shepherd. I KNOW my own…” (John 10:14-15).
• He knows every wound, every scar, every shame, every sorrow, regret, every guilt.
• He knows how stubborn we are. He knows our prejudices and every excuse that we use to keep Him at a safe distance.
• He knows how lonely, how disappointed, how afraid we are, despite all of the modern conveniences that our money can buy.

He knows us – and how empty we are unless He is in us because this how He made us. “Our souls are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” (Augustine) And He knows that we don’t know this because we think we can see even though we are really blind – because we think that we are wise even though we are ignorant.

“If you knew the gift of God and the one saying to you…” But we don’t. How could we unless He comes to us and speaks to us and opens our eyes and our minds and our hearts and MAKES HIMSELF KNOWN TO US?

The really good news is, He doesn’t wait until we get it. He doesn’t wait until we are ready for Him, because that would never happen. He comes and meets us at the well. He comes from heaven to earth and meets us at the baptismal well, one person at a time.

And he gives us “the gift of God…” Paul writes to the Romans saying, “the wages of sin is death, but the free ‘gift of God’ is eternal life though Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) And to the Ephesians he writes, “It is by grace that you have been saved, through faith, and this not of your own doing, it is the ‘gift of God.’ (Eph.2:8)

“If you knew the gift of God and the one saying to you, ‘give me a drink, YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN THE ONE DOING HE ASKING. And He would have given you living water… that will become in you a spring of living water, welling up in you to eternal life.’

For all of his careful attention to detail, John omits one little detail that we wish he had not. Did Jesus ever get His drink of water? We’re never told that He did – at least not here.

It is at the end of his gospel, that once again John reports that it was “the sixth hour” when Jesus is crucified. And while hanging from the cross He cried out, “I thirst!”


The Lord told Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” (Exodus 17:6)

And then John writes, “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (John 19:34) This is the “Fountain of water springing up into eternal life” for Moses and Israel, for that Samaritan woman and her village, for you and for me and for all who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Christ has taken His seat on the cross and living water pours out from His side to us. And we are refreshed as only those who drink of this water can be. And we have the gift of God and eternal life is springing up in us.

This is why “He HAD TO pass through Samaria.” He HAD TO meet this THRISTY woman at Jacob’s well. It is why He has come to you and meet you at the baptismal well too. HE HAD TO, so that you may never say – ‘IF I HAD ONLY KNOWN.’

The English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge puts it like this:
“I may, I suppose, regard myself as a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets – that’s fame.
I can fairly easily earn enough money to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the IRS – that’s success.
Furnished with money and a little fame, even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of friendly diversions – that’s pleasure.
It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time – that’s fulfillment.

Yet, I say to you, and I beg you to believe me, multiply these tiny triumphs by millions, add them all up together, and they are nothing, less than nothing, indeed, a positive impediment when measured against one drop of that living water that Christ offers the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.”

Jesus answered her, “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.”

But now you do know. So, drink up.

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