Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sermon for 27 March 2011, Lent 3C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
St. John 4:5-26
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah
Third Sunday in Lent, 27 March 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

            “Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
            “I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
            “Then drink,“ said the Lion.
            “May I--could I--would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
            The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
            The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
            “Will you promise not to--do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
            “I make no promise,” said the Lion.
            Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
            “Do you eat girls?” she said.
            “I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
            “I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
            “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
            “Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
            “There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
            This excerpt from one of the Narnia Chronicles (The Silver Chair, pp. 20-21) by C. S. Lewis sheds some light on our text, the account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. The story is not a perfect parallel to John Chapter 4, but there are some fascinating similarities. Jill and the woman both ask the wrong questions-because of the wrong assumptions. And Our Lord Himself acts like a Lion.

            So [Jesus] came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
            Our Lord is “on the prowl,” so to speak. He initiates a conversation by asking a simple question.
            When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
            The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” John provides some necessary background in another footnote. (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
            But the Lion of the Tribe of Judah had already crossed the cultural barrier. He was now in another’s prideland, foreign territory--the land of the tribes of the sons of Joseph.
            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.”
            Jesus’ original question is turned on its head. He offers her a drink.
            “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?”
            Greater than Jacob? A challenge! Does the Lord’s gentle purr become a growl? No. Our Lord brushes aside her words with a royal paw.
            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.”
            We are optimistic about her next response. Does she understand, or does she mistake Our Lord’s words for the sounds of an animal--unintelligible?
            The woman said to him,  “Sir, give me this water...”
            So far so good. But then she continues, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
            She doesn’t understand. Yet. As a lion studies his prey, He circles around the other way.
            He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
            “I have no husband, “ she replied.
            Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
            This is no tame lion. He calls a spade a spade, an antelope an antelope, a cheetah a cheater.... The jaws of the law pierce flesh.
            “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is Jerusalem.”
            Another misconception is batted away with a strong, yet velvety paw.
            Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
            The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
            Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”
            Forgive me for the pun, but “the cat is out of the bag.” The Lord has revealed Himself. This is not some devilish lion looking for someone to devour, but such a Lion, such a Lord that He wants to give His gifts so much that He overcomes misconceptions about Himself.

            Be honest. You may have thought it irreverent, even blasphemous, or just plain wrong to compare Christ Jesus to a lion. Let’s contemplate the biblical data.
            Consider Proverbs 20:2. A kings’ wrath is like the roar of a lion; he who angers him forfeits his life. God truly is the king of kings.
            Not convinced? Think about Jeremiah 49:19 or 50:44. Like a lion coming up from Jordan’s thickets to a rich pastureland, I will chase Edom from its land in an instant. Who is the chosen one I will appoint for this? Who is like me and who can challenge me? And what shepherd can stand against me?
            Ponder upon Hosea 11:10. They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. We are getting a clearer picture, but I have been saving the better evidence for last.
            Revelation 5:5. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah....has triumphed. This title is taken from Genesis 49:9 where Judah is named a lion’s cub and is promised the right to rule “until he comes to whom it belongs.” This verse has been fulfilled in Judah’s descendant David and David’s descendant Christ! The Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed, giving us living water. This living water was paid for with His blood on the cross, blood that flowed along with water from His riven side. He triumphed nearly 2000 years ago, but gives you life now and living water through the Holy Spirit that wells up to eternal life.
            A few chapters later, Revelation (7:17) draws our attention to living water. The Lion of Revelation 5 is the Lamb of Revelation 7. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.
            How about it? Our Lord could be described as a lion. It isn’t a complete picture, for God surpasses our understanding, but the picture has merit. Do you have a different perception now of this lion imagery?

            So far we’ve been talking about Jesus as a Lion. Consider your own perceptions of Jesus. What kind of Jesus do you believe in? Is He just a good moral teacher? Merely one option among many? An excellent example to follow? Someone you hear all about on Sundays but never consider during the rest of the week? Is He Someone to fear, especially on Judgment Day?
            The Samaritan woman had inaccurate, incomplete ideas of the promised Messiah. In the Narnia story, Jill asked the wrong questions. For example, “Do you eat girls?” revealed her mis-understanding of the Divine Lion. We are not exempt from shaping Jesus in our own sinful, unclean image.
            With His Word, the Lord brushes off misconceptions and offers truth about Himself. He explains Himself to us. He is the Truth and the Life. He gives living water.
            “[W]hoever 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.””
            It may be theologically negligent to ignore the obvious here. With all this “living water” overflowing from the text, who would not be reminded of Holy Baptism? The text speaks of the water that Jesus gives becoming “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This is not the major focus of the text, yet this is most certainly true. Baptism is a gift of God working forgiveness of sins, rescuing from death and the devil, and giving eternal salvation--eternal life--to all who believe this as the words and promises of God declare.
            “[W]hoever 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.”
            The Lord Jesus is greater than Jacob. Jesus is the well of living water, giving drink to all His flocks and herds and sons: Jews, Gentiles, Samaritans, Christians. He is living water that quenches our thirst for righteousness. He is living water that drowns our doubts about Him and misconceptions of Him. He is the Messiah, the Son of God, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.

            The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.