We’re at the end of another study. It’s time to wrap it up and apply what we’ve learned. We’ve seen that God had specific requirements for His people’s worship prior to Christ’s atoning death on the cross. We know that His once for all death made animal sacrifices unnecessary. But does God have specific requirements for our worship today in 2012 and beyond?
First we will look at a story of a Samaritan woman. A little background on the Samaritans might bring this passage to life. It will also give you new insight into the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Samaritans were Jews! Yep, they were descendants of Esau who made themselves into pariahs when they intermarried with their Assyrian captors in 722 B.C. These particular Jews – the Samaritans – were left behind during the captivity because they weren’t considered valuable enough to be spoils of war. They were considered half-breeds. Because of their lineage, they were shunned by “real” Jews and ended up setting up their own temple on Mount Gerizim.
Jesus broke with tradition on this day. He could have – and probably “should” have – taken a route that avoided Samaria, but He didn’t. He walked right in to a place where “real” religious people wouldn’t go and found a way to touch the heart of one considered untouchable.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” 27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” John 4:7-29 (ESV)
The Samaritan woman, who was at the well later in the day than most woman, was shunned by her peers for her promiscuity. She had to draw water alone. Jesus met her at the well and changed her life forever.
At the beginning of the conversation, the woman was focused on getting “free” water – relieving the burden of going to the well. She wondered whether Jesus was trying to tell her that he was greater than the patriarchs and was probably hoping for some magicial trick that would make her life easier. Instead, Jesus confronts her sin gently and tells her things that He could not have known.
Her response was to talk about physical worship – the “proper” place to worship was Jerusalem, of course. She missed the point of worship (proskuneo) – to show obedience, honor, reverence to God, to fall on her knees and prostrate herself on the ground before the Living Water.
Jesus knew what was soon to come. He would voluntarily die for our sins; the veil in the Temple would be torn top to bottom; there would be a new way to enter into the holy place and worship God. He also knew that the temple would be destroyed in 70 A.D. He was telling the woman that there would be a new kind of worship.
What do you think Jesus meant in verse 23-24?
Were the Samaritans worshiping in truth? They accepted the Torah alone as God’s word (the first five books of the Bible). The Jews accepted what we know as the Old Testament as God’s word. The Jews worshiped in the Jerusalem temple; the Samaritans worshiped at Mount Gerizim. Who was closer to worshiping in truth? We know that neither group truly got it right because we hear Jesus talk about proper worship and we see Him overturning tables in the temple. I think both groups were worshiping with head knowledge and neither group worshiped from the heart.
Do you worship from the head or the heart? When you attend church on Sunday, are you fully engaged? Do you stand (if able) and sing along during worship time, or after the “meet and greet” portion of the service, do you continue to talk through the entire next song or whatever happens in your service, looking to your friends’ conversation rather than getting into the spirit of worship? And if you do look for other people to talk to, are you aware of what they are doing when you greet them? If they are worshiping or singing or praying, do you interrupt them?
What’s your level of involvement in worship? Do you think of what Jesus has done for you? Do you understand how He brought down the separating wall between you and the holy God? What do you choose to DO with worship?
What do you think it means to worship God in spirit and in truth? I’d love to hear from you!