This is the third week of a new series we are calling “Jesus the gift of life.” It is a Lenten series that will lead us to the Easter celebration. The Lenten season is modeled after Jesus forty days in the wilderness where he fasted, prayed and met the devil before being ministered to by angels. Jesus is God’s gift to us for life. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) This is God’s greatest act of love for us his children.
We will look at Jesus through this series, using the readings from each week to take a particular aspect of Jesus and expand how we are gifted. Jesus provides so much for those who want to know him. Beyond salvation there is much we can learn to live better lives and make life better for ourselves and others. Through Jesus we learn we are brothers and sisters, and we are challenged to share and love each other. Jesus is a gift to us; we can be gifts to one another if we desire to give what we have received.
Two weeks ago the readings began by telling of God breathing into Adam and animating life. The Hebrew word for breath can also be translated as spirit. It allows us to see we have the spirit of God in us. Jesus becomes the being in whom all life is held, he is in the beginning giving life, his obedience acquits all humanity and provides eternal life and Jesus taught we can obey and defeat transgression on our own. We receive a breath and through it have the animating spirit of God who gave Jesus as the gift of life.
Last week the readings guided us to listen. God speaks about Jesus declaring his love and informing those present they should listen to him. Abraham sets the example earlier in the salvation history when he trusts and listens to God, doing all that is asked of him faithfully. Paul teaches that his whole life became about doing God’s will, trusting God and constantly having God as a presence in his life. If we want to receive the gift of life we must listen to him, Jesus God.
The readings this week challenges us to hunger and thirst. We see the Jews in the desert lose trust and test God for food and water. Paul writes about faith, hope and love, God’s attempt to help us satisfy our hunger and thirst. In the gospel we read Jesus offering living water to satisfy us. We can seek pleasures and consume in this life but without drinking form the water Jesus provides we will never be satisfied.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Third Sunday of Lent; Exodus 17:3-7; Psalms 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 and John 4:5-42. This week we are challenged to hunger and thirst by Jesus who also thirst. When we drink the living water that Jesus offers we begin to quench our desire for God that is placed in our heart from the beginning of life.We are challenged to hunger and thirst by Jesus who also thirst. When we drink the living water that Jesus offers we begin to quench our desire for God that is placed in our heart from the beginning of life. Click To Tweet
The reading from Exodus tells the story of hungry and thirsty people in the desert, doubting their trust in God. They complain about being freed by God from a place where they had all they needed to survive and being brought to a place where there is no water or food. Moses speaks to God who tells him to strike a rock and water will flow, eventually they will have plenty to eat as quails will come each evening for them to capture and manna will lay on the ground as the dew evaporates in the morning. The place where this occurred, is called Meribah and Massah, forever known as the place where the people tested God, their faith diminished and the own needs becoming more important than knowing God who saves them and will always be there for them. It is a common testing; when we are hungry and thirsty we generally think it is up to our own devices to relieve the need for food and water. It is something we think we can do. We work to buy food and water, even finding ways when we are poor finding satisfaction in unusual ways. But rarely when we are trying to resolve a basic need do we turn and wait for the hand of God. It is easy for us to judge the people in the desert who had been helped by God. But how often do we have the necessary faith when we are hungry or thirsty? In some of Jesus miracles he would say your sins are forgiven, then heal the individual, the healing a demonstration of how forgiveness is possible as well. We turn to God when we need something big, we should trust God with our hunger and thirst as well.
In the second reading from Romans Paul touches on faith, hope and love. We have faith and have justice both of which come through the grace of God. When we have faith in God, particularly on the entry of Jesus at the perfect time, we receive justification, we are freed of condemnation and we have peace. Once justified we can boast in our hope in the glory of God; we will attain eternal life in the presence of God. We have this hope because God has poured love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We did nothing to earn this acquittal from condemnation, it is freely given by God even while we were sinful and ungodly at the very moment Jesus died for us. God’s love for us is a love that cares more for the other than self, it doesn’t depend on mutuality or receiving gratitude in return. It is the kind of love God always shows, providing a response to those things we hunger and thirst for, even without our asking. Jesus is the gift of life that God has planned and provided and we are recipients of not only life, but love, hope and faith in the future. We may ask God for things and not hear a positive response but in the things that are critical to us to have life, God responds before we even ask. We must be satiated by God’s response to our unformed request, God’s response to the things we would hunger and thirst for if we were not distracted from petty needs and desires.We may ask God for things and not hear a positive response but in the things that are critical to us to have life, God responds before we even ask. Click To Tweet
In the gospel reading from John we hear the story of a meeting between Jesus and a Samaritan women. Jesus reveals only three times that he is the one that the Jews are waiting for, the Messiah, once to Peter, once to Mary the sister of Lazarus and to this woman, a Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews are opposed to one another. The woman comes to the well in the middle of the day, likely because she has something to hide and doesn’t want to be with the other woman who come before the high heat is upon then well. Jesus’ conversation with her could easily be understood as Jesus meeting anyone who feels unwelcome or unworthy. She represents all sinners, and all outsiders. For Jesus everyone should hear the message of hope that he offers.
The discussion is about water and how we will thirst for water again no matter how much we drink, but if we receive the living water that Jesus offers we will never thirst again. Jesus tells the woman, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14) She does not understand, I am not sure we understand very well after two thousand years of studying these words of Jesus. But it is a very hopeful promise. Jesus is promising an interior source of blessing and refreshment. Something we will receive from the Holy Spirit providing a participation in a divine life, lifting us to a level beyond natural life, giving us an eternal existence that begins here and now. This “living water” will satisfy us permanently. There is no doubt we are searching for something, we ache to be satisfied, and no matter what we possess or achieve in this life our search continues and our accomplishments never seem to satisfy.
We are often reminded Augustine of Hippo, a Bishop and teacher, quoted as saying, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” We are searching for our source, our purpose, our creation point. Augustine gives the impression that God at creation stamped in our hearts a desire to search for God, a need to find God. We will always be hungry and thirsty until we find that which will truly satisfy us, knowledge of God, the presence of God, the glory of God. It is available to us when we drink the living water of Jesus. Although we drink we sometimes forget and search again for more human comforts and fulfillment and we drift away from the source of living water. We must constantly go back to the source of the water, and remember we are filled and nothing else can satiate us.
We must recognize the hunger and thirst within us, knowing it can only be satisfied by the source of life, by the living water Jesus offers, by the faith, hope and love Paul speaks about, by the manna from heaven that God has sent to the people of Israel. Although even Jesus reminds us that manna from God was temporary, Jesus again offers true bread, himself to satisfy our hunger. We must recognize it is through Jesus, the gift of life, that our hunger and thirst is satisfied. We receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and we never need to drink or eat again, the source of living water is within us.e must recognize it is through Jesus, the gift of life, that our hunger and thirst is satisfied. We receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and we never need to drink or eat again, the source of living water is within us. Click To Tweet
Hunger and thirst
We all understand what it means to be hungry and thirsty. We don’t need to teach a infant to eat or drink, they are born desiring their mother’s milk almost immediately and they know how to take it in and what to do when they aren’t getting any, cry! All through life we discover many ways to satisfy our hunger and thirst, although mostly we are seeking food and drink that satisfies our taste buds. But the food we take in does respond to our basic desires to satisfy our hunger and thirst. We don’t have to think about it, we subconsciously do the things our body requires of us to satisfy this basic need.
So it is significant that we read this weekend about people being hungry and thirsty and Jesus responding with a way to eternally satisfy our need to be satiated. Thirst, like hunger, is an indication of a fundamental and profound ambition which God has placed within us. This ambition means we are never completely satisfied or quenched. On a physical level it is a sign of good health to be hungry and thirsty. This is just as true on the spiritual plane.
When he began his ministry Jesus taught his disciples the blessings, one of which was “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) Jesus is speaking not of the righteousness of humanity but the righteousness of God. This hunger and thirst for righteousness is not violent or revolutionary, nor even legalistic. It is the deep desire to respect nature, such as God in his act of love has created it. It is the desire that all things exists in the order and harmony God willed. It is above all a thirst for God’s will to be done in all things, for God’s name is to be hallowed, and his Kingdom come. It is a longing for the glory of God, with the same burning desire which consumed the heart of Jesus.
To live this blessing we must not be quenched like those who consume seeking immediate pleasure. We must be hungry and thirsty, in order to remain inwardly open. However a certain subduing on the material level is not sufficient. We think in this season of fasting, to artificially remain hungry and thirsty, so we know what it means to be open to a greater satisfaction. So it is not a diet but a prayerful entrance into the fast which highlights our hunger. We must come to recognize this inner hunger and thirst for a burning heart like that heart of Jesus.
We must let go of our securities, our guardedness, our safety nets, our collateral in order to experience fully the need that Jesus experienced, that desire to do the will of the Father. The word righteousness is significant, sometimes we see it as justice, it implies an accomplishment. We must be working towards attaining the will of the Father. Righteousness seems to mean the saving activity of God, to submit to the plan of God for the salvation of humanity.Righteousness seems to mean the saving activity of God, to submit to the plan of God for the salvation of humanity. Click To Tweet
We cannot bounce from one thing to another, captive of our own desires, needs, and pleasures. Addressing this hunger and thirst, we recognize we are hungry and thirsty for God, the love of God, it is not fully in us but we know we want it. We are hungry and thirsty for the complete accomplishment of the will of God, for ourselves and others. The same hunger and thirst that burns in Jesus.
We must be strong of heart, not willful, or too rigid, but strengthened and rooted in love. We don’t approach this work from the place of power and aggressiveness, but from the place of love, we go forward with an affection and passion that keeps us focused, but also lets us hold those around us gently and with a desire for their recognition of this hunger and thirst.
The Holy Spirit alone can give us the grace to develop this strong heart that can realize this hunger and thirst for righteousness. We must have an experience of divine love, an infinite love that we experience when we realize God loved us first and that in loving us he teaches us to love ourselves and truly to love others.
As Jesus began his ministry teaching about hunger and thirst for righteousness, he ends speaking of thirst from the cross, Jesus said, “I thirst.” (John 19:28) Jesus is given a drink and then, “he said, ‘It is finished.’ And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” (John 19:30) As this “I thirst” is one of Jesus final statements we can get a sense of how important it is for Jesus to have us understand being thirsty is for those who will follow him.
Though we may receive this living water from Jesus, we, like Jesus, will still be thirsty. We can drink from the living water of Jesus, have a heart that burns like Jesus’ and we will still thirst in the end. Jesus for his part has completed his Father’s will for him. But he knows the work is not completed; we must carry the message of Jesus further, to bring the will of the Father forward for all of humanity. All most know God’s love for them and God’s plan to give then “living water” that will quench all their hunger and thirst.
Jesus speaking to Peter in the garden at his arrest says he must “drink the cup that the Father gave” him. (John 18:11) Jesus drinking the cup fulfills the Father’s will for him. Jesus drinks and declares it is finished. Jesus offered his life as a perfect act of obedience and love to the Father to accomplish the work of righteousness.
Although the work is finished for Jesus, it is not finished for the world. We see in Matthew that we too must pick up the cup that Jesus drinks. In responding to a question from the mother of the sons of Zebedee about having her sons sit next to Jesus in his kingdom, Jesus challenges her asking her, can you drink from the cup I am going to drink? Jesus will go on to say, “My cup you will indeed drink,” (Matthew 20:23). We thirst and must drink from the same cup as Jesus. The cup which has us doing the will of the Father.
We tend to think we can sustain ourselves on own. We don’t need others, we can take care of ourselves without much aid from those around us. We tend to be brought up this way and feel we fail when we can’t take care of ourselves. Jesus is a savior that says, I thirst, I need you. But he is also saying we need a savior. We thirst too. It is not insignificant that we share the same cup as Jesus. We, like Jesus, thirst, and we can satisfy our thirst drinking from Jesus, the living water, as we must allow others to drink from us when we are able to become living water.
Jesus is the gift of life
As we hunger and thirst, quenching ourselves from the living water, the water Jesus provides, we can recognize Jesus is the gift of life. Jesus thirst from the beginning of his message to his final words is a thirst he wants to share with each of us. Fulfilling this hunger and thirst Jesus is fulfilling the will of the Father. The Father’s will is that we all may have our thirst satisfied. Jesus has done his Father’s will and challenges us to do the same. Just as Jesus is the gift of life for us, we can become life for others.