In the previous post, the Samaritan woman said she perceived Jesus might be a prophet. Which changes the direction of their conversation.
She takes the conversation in a spiritual direction, asking Jesus to settle an age-old religious dispute.
John 4:20 (NKJV)
20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
The woman is asking Jesus to rule on whether the Samaritans or the Jews had the
correct view on where they are supposed to worship. The Samaritans had made Gerizim the center of their worship, and that goes all the way back to Abraham and Jacob’s day. This is the mountain they thought or they said was the place Abraham sacrificed Isaac. It wasn’t. But that was what they said. They said this was the place Abraham met Melchizedek, probably wasn’t but they said it. Since this mountain was near Shechem and many significant events in the Old Testament occurred in connection to Shechem, then they logically concluded that this must be an important place for God.
Nevertheless, the Jewish scriptures revealed that the place God chose to put HIs temple was in Jerusalem, under David. Because the Samaritans rejected the word of God delivered by the prophets, they were in the wrong. But the very question of where they were supposed to go worship, the one she is now asking Jesus to resolve, that question was actually about to become an obsolete issue. Both Samaritans and Jews were worshipping places and faces rather than the Living God Who sanctified those things. Samaritan Woman
John 4:21-24 (NKJV)
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Notice where the conversation suddenly has gone? Where before she had no interest, no willingness to discuss eternal life or flowing waters, etc. She just wanted to stay focus on her well. By virtue of her life being exposed to someone who did not deny her the kindness of God. She now has a concern over these matters in a healthy way. She is seeking insight, this is not a sarcastic conversation anymore. This is a sign of repentance taking hold. She hasn’t repented in an outward way as yet, but her heart is turning.
At that moment Jesus starts teaching. Here’s the idea we said earlier, you engage with purposeful intent. Jesus knew He would get here and now that He is here He can talk about it. Imagine how this conversation would have gone if He started in verse 21 instead of asking for water? How far would He had gone with the conversation? So back to the point, Jesus begins, by confirming… first of all, the answer to the question the Samaritan woman asked is the Jews are right, not her. He confirms the superiority of the Jewish perspective but He moves past that, He almost says it in passing like it is not the main issue.
He’s not concerned about where someone worships, He’s concerned how someone worships. Jesus says a time is coming when true worshippers won’t go to any particular mountain to find God. In that day the true mountain was Jerusalem. And the Samaritans were in the wrong place, so it was a counterfeit. But true salvation being found through the Jews must mean ultimately, the Messiah of the Jews. That we end up at that point in our understanding of salvation. We don’t stop at the building we go to the man who is in the building, so to speak. The God who lives there. The Jewish people are the ones God selected to deliver this truth because they had the covenants, they had the prophets, they had the Messiah, they are the ones through whom the message of the Gospel is going to come. So if you want salvation you have to come through the Jewish people to find it, to know of it. But nevertheless, it is not found through Judaism, it’s not found through the customs of Jewish teaching, it’s not found through the Law per se, it’s not found through the rituals of sacred places of Judaism. It is found through a person.
Jesus says an “hour” is coming and is already here when He speaks to this woman. When true worship will be set free from a prescribed form or location. That word hour doesn’t refer literally to the hour of the day He is standing there, it refers to a time or age, and that time is the time of the church, of now. It’s a time from the Messiah’s first appearance until the time of the church’s resurrection. That period of time is the time of now, or hour, which we don’t have a building we go to. No one specific place on earth. During this time instead, Jesus says the Father wants worshippers, true worshippers, who approach Him in spirit and in truth. Neither which are physical. You can’t touch those things. You can’t find them in one place. We must approach the Father on His terms. What Jesus is saying, it is not that the past process, the past prescription was wrong. He’s not saying it was wrong when they used to go to a Temple. He is saying that was a temporary accommodation for a period of history and it was always intended to give way to a new period of history in which that physical location for worship was no longer needed. And no longer expected.
By the word, the Lord determined that worship would be limited to certain people and to a certain place under the Law with the Jewish people. He had a temple and sacrifices. But those constraints were a temporary measure. And they were all in preparation for the arrival of the Messiah. Now that the Messiah has come, now those things are going away. The writer of Hebrews says it this way in chapter 9:
Hebrews 9:8-9 (NKJV)
8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—
He was saying as long as the tabernacle was up and running and serviceable it was assigned to the world that the true way to finding God was still yet to be revealed. True meaning Christ Himself. But now that Christ has been revealed, God took the temple down in A.D. 70. That approach is made possible by the revelation of the Messiah and our faith in Him. The worshipping of Him should be coming in two ways. The truth and through the Spirit. The Truth makes possible a way to the Father. And our faith in the Messiah through a gift given by the Spirit makes our worship acceptable because we come to the truth. We come to understand Who He is by the gift of faith. We must worship in the truth of Christ or else our worship is null and void. Don’t ever mistake sincerity in some particular style of worship for a true understanding of Who God is. Many wrong people are very sincere in their false worship. And very convincing if you look upon it. It doesn’t mean God is hearing it.
Jesus emphasizes that worshiping in Truth is a prerequisite. If you don’t know who the true God is; if you don’t know Him through the way He provided, that is, through His Son, then you are far from Him. Secondly, you have to do it in Spirit, He said so because God Himself is Spirit. In other words, the Father is not localizable to one place. He is Spirit so He is in all places at all times. Which means ironically that though He is everywhere, you cannot find Him anywhere. He exists in Spirit form, we must approach Him by His Spirit. We approach Him only through the Spirit residing in us. You can’t approach God by finding Him some particular place because that is not how he is found.
What did The Samaritans have? They have nothing. They lacked the truth of God’s word, so they were far from Him in that regard. And they lacked the Spirit of God because they did not have the gift of God by virtue of the lack of truth. So they could not worship Him truly. Jesus says to this woman the hour is coming, which refers to the church age, and He says it is now, referring to her, to her moment, it is now for you to understand that you come to God only though Spirit and through Truth. Jesus is announcing the arrival of salvation for this Samaritan woman. He has brought her evil deeds into the Light. Yet He didn’t condemn her. His kindness softened her heart, she entered into the conversation. And Jesus told her that worship must be this new way. What do you think she does at this point? All that’s required at this point is for her to embrace that truth. To make some indication that she is hearing what He is saying.
John 4:25-26 (NKJV)
25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (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.”
The woman confesses her faith. What is her faith based on, though? Essentially her faith is in God’s promise of a Messiah from Deuteronomy 18:18.
Deuteronomy 18:18 (NKJV)
18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.
And when that One arrives, she says, He will explain all things, He will settle all arguments and set straight every dispute, we won’t have these issues anymore. She has faith in that promise. By this confession, she is showing she is a child of God. But the problem you might have at this point is she did not acknowledge Jesus was the Messiah. That is a different question. All the Old Testament saints were acknowledging the promise of a Messiah while waiting for His identity to be revealed. That was the measure of faith for them. But once the identity of the Messiah is revealed, true faith will embrace the Person of Messiah. It is no longer sufficient for you to say, I have a belief in a promised Messiah. Unless once He is revealed you do not accept Him as such. That would be a Jewish view of the world, even now.
So then came the test for this woman. Jesus announces He is the One who Moses was speaking about and she’s been waiting for. Critics of Jesus and the Bible will tell you at times that Jesus never once declared He was the Messiah or the Son of God. This verse (among others in John’s Gospel) counter that lie very easily. This is just one example of that. Like with the earlier encounter with Nicodemus (chapter 3), this scene teaches us a lot about salvation. What is it teaching us in this case? In other words, at this point, as the Samaritan woman has come to know of Jesus as the Messiah, what is the essential element of salvation being examined here? In the case with Nicodemus, it was the manner of salvation. In the case with this woman, it is, ritual and tradition are not a substitute for true worship of God. The time of relics and special buildings and rituals is over. It only ever existed under the Jewish framework anyway. That age has gone and in its place has come, a new age. An hour, Jesus says, when worship shows no regard for form or place. With Nicodemus, we learned that salvation comes by this new birth, and with this woman, we learn our worship must be guided by that new spirit that comes with the new birth.
There are some intriguing contrasts between these two characters when you stop and look at them for a minute. For example, in John 3, you see a man of high regard and reputation. A Jew who possessed the truth of Heaven, so he thought. He came to Jesus, though he had nothing to hide, in the night. And in ignorance, we find out. In John 4, you have a woman of low regard, a woman not a man, low regard, and ill repute. She’s not the privileged Jew with all the truths. She is the Samaritan trapped in lies. She has everything to hide, but she meets Jesus at noon, the sixth hour out in the open. Reminds us the Lord is not a respecter of persons. Both that Jew and this woman needed the truth. Neither was closer to it than the other one. Though one had the true religious system at least as God had originally delivered it. It had been so perverted it made no sense to anyone anymore and he had totally missed the truth because he lacked the gift of God. And this woman was absolutely sure she had the truth and was not afraid to be seen and talk about it but she also was far from it and had a lot holding her back from entering the Light of God.
Next week the disciples return and encounter the Samaritan woman.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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