True Worship

To the Samaritan woman, Jesus revealed that access to the presence of God is not limited to specific locations or structuresJohn 4:20-24.

Worship Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash
To a Samaritan woman, Jesus revealed the proper form and location for the worship of the Father. With the advent of the Messiah, concepts about holy space and holy time no longer applied, and the arrival of the “
Son of Man” rendered the historical debate over the location of the Temple moot. From now on, worship must be performed in truth and in spirit - [Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash].

Even at this early point in his ministry, Jesus experienced opposition from the Temple authorities, and quite possibly, that is why he left Judea for Galilee to find more receptive hearts.  And the most direct route was through Samaria, a region many traveling Jews avoided by taking a more circuitous route - (John 4:1-3).
  • (John 4:20-22) – “Our fathers in this mountain worshiped, and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where we must worship. Jesus says to her: Believe me, woman! There is coming an hour when neither in this mountain nor yet in Jerusalem shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you know not. We worship that which we know because salvation is of the Jews.
On the way, he encountered the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, where he asked her for water. She was surprised. Devout Jews avoided contact with Samaritans, and it was socially awkward for a Jewish male to communicate with an unrelated female.

Jesus responded: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is speaking to you, you would ask, and he would give you living water.”  She assumed he meant water and asked how he could draw any from the well with no vessel, and then asked: “Are you greater than Jacob who gave us the well?” He responded:
  • Everyone who drinks this water will thirst again. Whosoever drinks of the water I will give will never thirst; in him, it will become a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.”
The woman then asked for this “living water.” In turn, Jesus told her to “summon your husband.” She claimed to have no husband, but he retorted, “You have had five husbands and he whom you now have is not your husband; you have spoken truly.”

The Samaritan woman perceived him to be a prophet and asked him about the old dispute between the Jews and Samaritans: “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you say that in Jerusalem is the place necessary to worship!”

The Samaritans also worshiped the God of Israel, but unlike the Jews, they recognized only the books of Moses as scripture, and they disagreed with them over the proper location of the Temple.

Moses had directed Israel to worship at the place Yahweh designated, but he did not specify that location. Because the Jews accepted the rest of the Old Testament, they assumed the correct site was Jerusalem.

The Samaritans argued in favor of Mount Gerizim in Samaria for the location of the Temple, and they pointed for scriptural authorization to Genesis where God promised to give Shechem (city of Samaria) to Abraham and to his “seed” – (1 Kings 12:25):
  • (Genesis 12:6-7) - “Abram passed through the land unto the place of Shechem, unto the oak of Moreh... And Yahweh appeared to Abram and said: To your seed will I give this land, and there built he an altar for Yahweh.”
Jesus responded with a most unexpected declaration:
  • There is coming an hour when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for even such as these is the Father seeking as his worshipers. God is spirit; they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth” - (John 4:23-24).
He did not attempt to resolve the ancient dispute. Instead, he described the new order of worship being established in him, one where questions about holy sites and space were pointless - His words indicated the obsolescence of the old Temple.

What mattered was not where God’s people worshiped, but how - (“An hour is coming and now is”). The people of God must now worship him as Father by means of spirit and truth. Likewise, the division between Jews and Samaritans had reached its termination point.

As elsewhere in John, “hour” referred to the death of Jesus, the “hour” of his “glorification.” He was ushering in a new reality where external rituals are replaced by spiritual worship:

  • (John 7:37-39) – “Now, on the last, the great day of the feast, Jesus was standing, and he cried aloud, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink: He that believes on me, just as said the Scripture, River from within him shall flow of living water. Now, this spoke he concerning the Spirit which they who believed on him were about to receive; for, not yet, was the Spirit, because Jesus not yet was glorified!

With his death and resurrection, traditional restrictions and regulations based on space and time have become irrelevant. The presence of Yahweh cannot be limited to buildings, geographic locations, or specific “seasons” of the year. From now on, Jesus is the true “holy place” where God is worshiped, and His presence is found.

The “Son of Man,” the “word made flesh,” is the true tabernacle in which the glory of God is manifested, and the means of access between heaven and earth. He is the true Temple raised up by God after three days - (John 1:14, 1:47-51, 2:17-22).

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