It was also about the sixth hour when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and asked her to give Him a drink. And of course, as that story unfolded, it was not that He was seeking to get something from her, but that He was teaching her to seek the gift of living Water from Him — Water that would become a fountain springing up to everlasting life in her and in all who would hear and heed His Word. For so does He bestow the free gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father.
Indeed, at the Feast of Tabernacles a few chapters later in St. John’s Holy Gospel, Jesus declares to the crowds in Jerusalem, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” For as the Holy Scriptures have said, “From out of His innermost being will flow rivers of living Water.” And this He said concerning the Holy Spirit, who would be freely given to all who believe in Christ Jesus; though the Spirit was not yet given, then, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Now the Hour has come, when the Son of Man is glorified by the way and the means of His Cross and Passion, the atoning sacrifice of true God in the flesh. And so it is from this very Hour that He pours out the Holy Spirit generously upon all those who believe and are baptized in His Name.
It is by the voluntary suffering and death of the incarnate Son of God that forgiveness of sins is obtained, and that sinners are redeemed and reconciled to God the Father in Him. Apart from that forgiveness and redemption, the fallen sons and daughters of Adam could neither receive the Holy Spirit nor ever hope to abide in the presence of God, far less to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. Apart from the Atonement of Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit would be for sinners a deadly Flood and a consuming Fire, but not the Breath of Life and the Living Water that He desires to be for you.
But Christ the Lord, the Son of God, has given Himself into death upon the Cross as your merciful and great High Priest in all things pertaining to God. And by way of that willing Self-Sacrifice, in His Resurrection from the dead and His Ascension to the right hand of the Father, He has become the true Temple of God. In His own Body, crucified and risen from the dead, God tabernacles with His people in the flesh; and through His flesh and blood you come to the Father in the Spirit and the Truth, that is, by faith in the Word and Spirit of this one Lord, Jesus Christ.
So it is that, by and from the Cross of Christ the Crucified — from His innermost being, from the depths of His Body, pierced and wounded for you and your salvation — the Holy Spirit is poured out generously upon the Church on earth. The Spirit flows from the open heart of Christ as a River of living Water and as a Fountain springing up, even in the desert, unto everlasting Life.
As St. John will write in his Book of the Revelation, this pure River of the Water of Life flows from the Throne of God and of the Lamb — from the Body of the Lamb who was slain, and yet, behold, He lives. That River flows into all the world with healing and refreshment, that all who thirst might drink freely, without cost, and live. And again, that living and Life-giving Water is the Holy Spirit, who is freely given to all who thirst in the Ministry of the Gospel of Christ Jesus, bestowing life and health and strength to His disciples from all nations. Whoever drinks of that living Water (by faith in the Gospel) shall never thirst again, nor shall he die anymore forever.
With that in mind, consider what it means for the Lord Jesus Christ — the very Son of God who freely bestows the Holy Spirit from the Father — consider what it means for Him to thirst, as He dies upon the Cross in fulfillment of the Scriptures, completing your Atonement and Redemption.
There can be no doubt that His battered, bruised, beaten, bloody, and beleaguered human body was genuinely thirsty for something to drink, to moisten His parched lips and soothe His dry throat.
But far more important for you and your salvation, the Lord Jesus thirsts for the Spirit of God, for the Kingdom of His God and Father, and for the righteousness by which He justifies and saves the nations. He hungers and thirsts to do the will of His Father in fulfillment of the Holy Scriptures, in order to bestow the free gift of the Holy Spirit upon dead and dying sinners: To pour out the Spirit generously upon you through His Word of the Gospel, the forgiveness of all your sins.
When you are thirsty, it is for yourself, for your own benefit and comfort, for your own pleasure and satisfaction, your own refreshment and hydration. Not that it is wrong for you to receive and benefit from the good gifts of God for your body and life, but your thirst is for your own needs.
By contrast, the Lord Jesus Christ is thirsty, not for Himself and His own needs, but for the good and gracious will of God, for the life and salvation of all the fallen children of Adam and Eve.
Jesus does not thirst for anything that you might provide Him or give to Him. Instead, He thirsts to provide for you and give to you all that you have lacked and needed in both body and soul — Atonement for your sins, Redemption from death and the devil, Reconciliation and Peace with God, and the Life everlasting in His Kingdom.
To that end, His thirst is not quenched with the cool, clear, and refreshing water of life, but with the last dregs of that bitter Cup which the Father has given Him to drink, the sour wine of God’s righteous wrath and anger against the sins of the world — that the thunder of God’s wrath against you and your sins should be quieted, and that you should be righteous and holy before Him.
It is in His perfect fulfillment of the Righteousness of God, by His suffering and death upon the Cross, that Christ Jesus hands over the Spirit — that you might receive the Holy Spirit from Him. He thirsts, in other words, that you might drink freely of His Spirit and never thirst again; that you should not die but live forever with Him, body and soul, in the presence of His God and Father.
So it is that Christ Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit upon you in that sacred Fountain of Water and Blood that flows from His innermost being on the Cross. For these holy things of which St. John adamantly testifies are all connected: The Spirit, the Water, and the Blood are all in agreement.
The Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, your merciful and great High Priest, He drinks the sour wine, the vinegar with gall, the poison in the Cup, in order to pour out the Water and the Blood from His Body as the good and best Wine for you and for the many — which you are now given to drink with Him in His Kingdom, in the royal wedding Banquet of the Lamb and His Wife.
So has He filled His Font and His Chalice with the life-giving Fruits and Benefits of His Sacrifice upon the Cross. He gives you not only Himself but the gift of the Holy Spirit from God the Father in heaven; not for condemnation, but in and with His free and full forgiveness of all your sins.
And so it is that, in the waters of your Holy Baptism, to which you are daily returned by the Word of the Law and the Gospel, by repentance and faith in the forgiveness of your sins — and in the Cup of the Holy Communion, which is the New Testament in the very Blood of Christ Jesus — you are given to drink freely and deeply from the River of Life.
Thus are you redeemed and justified, cleansed and sanctified, body and soul, both now and forever. Thus are you rescued from the bondage of sin, the fear of death, the power of the devil, and the punishment of hell. And thus are you given the Spirit of God, by whom you have Life everlasting.
It is likewise by these gracious gifts of God in Christ that you worship the Father in Spirit and Truth: By hearing and receiving the Divine Service of His Gospel in faith and with thanksgiving, and by confessing His Word and calling on His Name in prayer and praise.
So also do you worship the Lord your God by loving your neighbor in the Name and for the sake of Jesus Christ — not least of all by giving drink to those who thirst, since Christ the Lord has also thirsted for you and them. You live and love as He does, because the Spirit of God wells up in you as a Fountain of life for your neighbor, and because Christ Jesus Himself lives and loves in you.
Though the Lord does all things for you, provides you with all that you need, and has no need of anything from you, He would have you love and serve your neighbor as an exercise and expression of your faith and gratitude. It is in your thirsty neighbor, as Christ Himself has taught you, that you are given the opportunity to give your Lord a drink, to quench His thirst, even with a cup of cool water. And He has promised that all who do so in His Name shall by no means lose their reward.
Even so, for all those ways in which you find yourself still parched and thirsty in the desert, so spent upon yourself that you have nothing left for anyone else, ask of Him who has thirsted on the Cross in your place, who has fulfilled the Scriptures and accomplished the will of God the Father, and who has opened the Kingdom of God to all who believe and are baptized in His Name — ask, and He will pour out for you such living Water as will satisfy your deepest thirst. For He forgives you all your sins and remembers them no more; He fills you with His Spirit and commends you to His Father in peace; and He raises you from death to life in His own righteousness and holiness.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.