Last week we were introduced to the Samaritan woman. We remember Jesus being led by the Father to go through Samaria. We remember Jesus getting to the well in a state of heat exhaustion so serious that his disciples left him in hostile Samaritan territory alone to get lifesaving refreshment in a Samaritan village. Their willingness to even go into a Samaritan village shows that Jesus was indeed in some difficulty. We remember that the Greek word translated “weary” is in a tense that his condition had not improved by the time the Samaritan woman came at high noon. Yet Jesus in his physical weakness saw that the Samaritan woman was even thirstier than he was for the living water which comes from above. We remember that Jesus drew her into conversation and convinced her that she was truly the one in need of water by telling her about her sinful life which could no longer be hid. With this, we pick up on this week’s lesson.
The Exposition of the Text
The woman, seeing that her sin could no longer be hid knows that Jesus must be more than a mere man. She tells him that she believes that Jesus must be a prophet. There is some indication in the Greek that this could be translated; “Sir I think you might be The Prophet.” The Samaritans believed only the first five books of the Bible, so she is referring to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 that the Lord would send them another prophet like Moses but greater who would teach them everything about what the Law meant. She was starting to make the connection that the person she was talking with might be the promised Taheeb (Messiah) or prophet. But she wasn’t sure at this point.
At any rate she was now the one who is disoriented, not Jesus. She might have thought Jesus delirious earlier, but now she realizes that she is desperately thirsty. Some think she tries to change the subject to throw Jesus off the track concerning her sinfulness, but it is more likely that she is desperate to make things right with God. She had been told all her life that Mt. Gerazim where the ruins of the Samaritan temple was and where they believe that Moses had told them, was the proper place of worship. She also knew the claims of the Jews that the Temple on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem was the proper place of worship. And she knew that Jesus was a Jew. Should she convert and become a Jew and worship at Jerusalem? Would that make things right between her and God? She is searching for how to be saved without fully understanding what that means.
Jesus’ answer must have come as quite a surprise. The jist of what Jesus is saying here is “Woman, it’s none of the above.” It isn’t either Mt. Gerazim nor Mt. Zion. One does not have to convert to being a Jew to be saved. This is good news because many of the Jewish teachers of that day believed a woman couldn’t be saved anyway unless her husband was both saved and willed it. And many would not accept the conversion of a Samaritan under any circumstance, even a man. Jesus has come to introduce a new way.
Jesus does affirm that the Jewish worship is superior in knowledge and prophecy in that God’s plan of salvation had been revealed to them. They had a clearer understanding of what they worshipped because their worship practices were not tainted with the worship practices of other religions like the Samaritans. Also it was the promise of God that the Messiah would come from King David’s descendants. But this prophecy was now being fulfilled in Jesus, and a new way of worship was coming.
Jesus restates himself in verse 23 that the time of change is coming and adds to it that it is now here. The true worshipper must worship the Father “in spirit and truth.” The King James Version has here “in spirit and in truth”, but the second “in” is not in the Greek. You cannot divide spiritual worship and true worship into two different things. The Jews had the more correct knowledge of God than the Samaritans, but their worship was not spiritual. The Samaritan worship had the appearance of being spiritual in the sense that the other religions, such as Baal worship, which the Samaritans had included in their worship was full of emotion. But it was not based upon the truth of God’s Word as they rejected most of the Old Testament and included other Pagan practices and doctrine. The true worshipper must be both spiritual and Biblically sound. These are the worshippers the Father is seeking.
The Old Testament affirms that God is bigger than any Temple that human beings could build. Solomon even stated that the heavens of heavens could not contain God, much less the Temple which he built. Jesus affirms this by telling the woman that God is Spirit and repeats that true worship must be in spirit and truth. Some would say that spirit here is a reference to the Holy Spirit; however, the Greek has no article “the” here. It is not “in the Spirit and truth.” All true believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, but this is not what is being said here.
The proper place of worship is not a temple or a mountain. We do not worship God either in a man made structure or in God’s creation. The Church building may be majestic, and the beauty of the universe awesome, but the proper way to worship the Father must come from within the believer, for that is where God’s Temple is. And where God’s Temple is, there is spirit and truth.
Even after all this that Jesus said, the woman is still not sure. She hasn’t grasped what Jesus had just said to her. She restates that she will understand all this when the Taheeb comes to explain all of this. She has the same faith stance as did Martha and Mary before the raising of Lazarus in chapter 11. They said that they believed that Lazarus would be raised at the resurrection at the last day. Both Mary and Martha were putting off the work of God to some dreamy future. This is less than perfect faith which realizes that God is here, now. In fact it is more of a wishy hope than faith. It is like the hymn “We Shall Overcome…someday.” Neither Mary or Martha or this woman realized they were meeting God right now. The resurrection and the life is not some far off hope. It is here now! “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” And he now tells the woman if I can paraphrase it a little “Woman, this Taheeb you are seeking is not some far off wish or dream. He is here right now standing in front of you who speaks to you.”
What does this all mean to us today? The first thing we must realize is that it is God who dictates how we should worship Him. All to often we think we have the freedom to worship the Father any old or new way we please. We determine how the church building is decorated. We determine the time of worship. We have a place of worship. We have an order of service. We have traditional services. We have contemporary services. We have High Church and Low Church forms of worship. We have charismatic and Pentecostal worship. It seems too much that we want to control the worship of God.
But this should not be so. I am not against the fact that we must organize our public worship in some matter, I am not against these things unless they become a hindrance to the true and spiritual worship of God. We must all realize that it is God we come to worship and not ourselves. We must remember that Jesus is Lord and not we. The only acceptable worship is the worship which is comes from within and it true to the Biblical revelation of God in Scripture. It is not an either or proposition. It cannot be just dry, dead doctrine without any life, a ritual we go through without a living faith within. Neither can we change Scripture to suit the fancy of the times or incorporate things into our worship services and life that are contrary to the teaching of Scripture. We must be God’s people led by the Spirit and we must also be the people of the Book (The Bible). Remember the words of Moses “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength.” True worship is the submitting of one’s entire self before God in love, truth, and spirit. In fact that is what the word “worship” signifies in Hebrew thought, “to prostrate one’s self before the Lord.” This is a recognition that we serve the Father and not vice versa. It is the placing of our entire trust in Him. Any worship in which God is not at the center is not the worship God wants. We cannot bow at the altar of relevance or cheap entertainment or any other God. Whenever we put the focus of worship on us rather than God, we are making gods of ourselves and are attempting to make God our slave.
The second thing is that God is seeking for the true worshippers. There is a lot going on today with what is called “seekers.” Churches are structured around these “seekers”. It is interesting to note that the Bible states in Romans that there “are none that seek after God.” The Bible shows that it is God who seeks us. The woman here certainly did not come to the well to find God. God found her. Abraham and his ancestors were not seeking the true God; the book of Joshua says they worshipped idols. It is God who sought out Abraham. And Jacob did not go to sleep at Bethel on a stone pillow to find God, but it is God who came to him. Moses did not go to Mount Horeb to find God, but God sought out Moses by appearing as a burning bush. And it was God who chose David from the sheepcote to be king of Israel. No one can know the truth of God unless God reveals it to him/her. This is clearly the message of John. Neither Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel, nor this woman figured it out on their own. And we are no better. We show ourselves all to often to be as spiritually dull as they, even though we have the revelation of Scripture.
The first Adam hid himself in the garden from the presence of God, Certainly the last thing he wanted to do was to go out and find God for fear God would find him out. And found him out He did. God came seeking for Adam, and he has been seeking for His lost sheep ever since. Thank God for Jesus who came seeking His own as the Good Shepherd. There would be no hope for any of us otherwise. We would be as the Samaritan woman trying to worship what we know not, groping in the dark.
Finally, we must realize that the time to meet God is not in some far off wishy washy future. Yes God is there, and Jesus shall return to set up the fullness of the Kingdom. But the time to meet God is now, just as it was for the Samaritan woman. We must come to faith in Christ now. He is not afar off. He is here, now! He is seeking now. He is inviting you now to come and worship the Father in spirit and truth. As the Bible says, “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your heart.” O, you might say, I will wait to some later time, such as my deathbed to come.” O sinner, wait not. Remember, you must come when God is seeking, in His way, in His place, and His time. You cannot come seeking when you are ready. You will not find Him then. Call now upon His name while he can be found, and while He is near. There is no guarantee you will get another invitation later. God’s time is now, and God’s place is in your heart. Turn to him, trust in Him, and worship Him. And God’s way is Jesus Christ. He is the only way. Come to him who can feel our pain, who emptied himself and died on a cross for our sins, and who rose again to prove that all is forgiven who believe in Jesus. As a human, he has felt out weakness. As God, he forgives our sin. Then we will be truly free to worship Him in spirit and truth.