A Marriage Made in Heaven

Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 23:45 mark.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The very first sign Jesus does in the Gospel of John is at a wedding, with water. The first, the beginning, the source. So then John is baptizing with water when he is confronted by the leaders of Israel about whether he is the Christ. He says, No, I am not the Christ. I am the friend of the Bridegroom. John baptizing with water to prepare for the wedding. It is the Bridegroom who has the bride. The friend of the Bridegroom stands by and rejoices at the voice of the Bridegroom. He must increase; I must decrease.

And so the Bridegroom shows up, seeking His bride, sitting by a well. Abraham’s servant sat by a well and waiting for Rebekah, who would marry Isaac. Jacob sits by a well and meets Rachel, whom he marries. Moses sits by a well before he meets his wife, Zipporah. So if you’re not married and you want to be, apparently you need to go sit by a well and wait a little while. Jesus sits by a well in Samaria, and a Samaritan woman comes out of the town to draw water. Jesus says, “Give Me a drink.” And the woman is surprised, because not only do Jews not have much to do with Samaritans, but Jewish men are never going to drink out of a vessel from which Samaritan women have drunk. They considered it inherently unclean. So she’s surprised, but Jesus says, “If you knew the Gift of God, and the one who is asking you, you would have asked Him and He would give you living water.” It is not like the water of that well, which you can drink and drink, and you will still be thirsty. You need water for life, but eventually water is not enough to keep you alive. But Jesus says, I will give you water that will itself become a well leaping with living water, bubbling and springing up unto eternal life. Jacob is important, but one greater than Jacob is here.

And then Jesus seems to go off the track. She says, Yes, I want that water, because I don’t want to be thirsty anymore and I don’t want to keep coming out here to this well. And then Jesus is suddenly talking about husbands. Or is it so sudden? He is the Bridegroom, after all. And the reason there are Samaritans at all is because of marriages. When the Assyrians conquered Israel 700-some years before, they took the prominent Israelites back to Assyria. And then they sent to Israel some people from the nations they had already conquered. And those nations brought their own gods with them. Five nations, all with their own gods, installing the worship of those gods in Israel, in the area that at Jesus’ time is Samaria. But not just the five, but the people tried to worship Yahweh as well (2 Kings 17:24-42). Strange, isn’t it, that Jesus talks about husbands, and the woman just goes on talking about prophets and worship?

But maybe not so strange. Maybe she knows what prophets are about, which is calling people away from their false worship to the true worship of Yahweh, the only God there is. Where should we worship, Jesus? You Jews say that in Jerusalem, at the temple, is where we ought to worship; but it has been handed down to us from our fathers that we should worship here, at Mt. Gerizim. Our fathers who worshiped the gods of the five nations, as well as Yahweh. You have had five husbands, but the one you have now is not your husband. Spiritual adultery—a falling away from the worship of the true God, the Husband who betrothed Himself to you by water in the Red Sea, and into the idolatry of the nations.

It is no coincidence that idolatry is spoken of in the same terms as adultery. One God, with one bride. The Bridegroom is the one who has the bride. One man and one woman, husband and wife; this is a great mystery, but I am speaking of Christ and the Church, St. Paul says. The Bridegroom is the one who has the bride! Go call your husband. Who is he? How many? The gods of the nations? What everyone around you worships? The same things in which everyone around you trusts? Yahweh your God is a jealous God; you shall have no other gods before His face. It is spiritual promiscuity to be in His house and then immediately go find somewhere else to worship: at the altars of our own desires, or false teaching, or any of the things in which the people around us trust, on which we spend our time, and money, and energy; the Father of Jesus will not be one of many.

But He is not like a jilted husband, who immediately divorces his wife. In fact, He uses the prophet Hosea to prove this. To demonstrate what His relationship with Israel is like, He has Hosea marry a woman who makes her living with other men. And she doesn’t seem remorseful at all. So Hosea has to keep chasing her, keep wooing her, keep bringing her back to his home. This, God says, is what I do. I will marry you to Myself, which means getting rid of all the false gods, getting rid of all false worship. Instead, I will make you true worshipers. And this is the reason God sends His Son into the world, to seek the people who are caught up in their false worship and make them true worshipers. So Jesus shows up at a well in Samaria, and He shows up where you are. This is why this passage, along with the sections of John’s Gospel for the next two weeks, was used for teaching people who would be baptized at the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. By water and the Spirit, there’s going to be a wedding, adding to the one bride of Christ, the Church.

When Jesus went to Cana the first time, the wedding was on the third day. Here the woman goes back into the town, tells everyone about Jesus and wonders, “This man can’t be the Christ, can he?” So they invite Him to remain with them for two days—and on the third day, there was a wedding: We no longer believe only because you told us, but because we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (4:40-42). God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world; already condemned in the spiritual adultery of all the many gods of this age, Jesus came that the world might be saved through Him.

The Father is seeking such worshipers, who will worship the in the Spirit and in the Truth; baptized into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, living water welling up to eternity. He has gathered each one of you to Himself so that we, like John, will rejoice when we hear the voice of the Bridegroom. Rejoice like the Samaritans. Rejoice like the disciples when He brought them peace after His resurrection. That we may be prepared joyfully to celebrate not only our earthly Easters, but to celebrate the eternal life that even now is the Spirit’s life-giving water within you. Jesus’ hour came, and He was crucified and pierced, and blood and water flowed from His side, living water from the living source. So He called you and so He calls everyone: whoever is thirsty, let the one believing in Me come and drink. Give to us to drink, O Lord, until we see You face to face in the wedding supper of the Lamb in the eternal city, where there is no temple, because God and the Lamb are the Temple, and the rejoicing and the feasting will never end.

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, 3/10/23

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