The Revelation of True Worship
We’re now in our third message of trying to understand more of this tremendous revelation of Jesus Christ witnessing to the Samaritan woman. John dedicates a huge chunk to this narrative because it is a tremendous revelation of the glory of Jesus Christ.
He is glorious in His pursuit of sinners. He is glorious in His destruction of cultural prejudices. He is glorious in His divine knowledge of every heart and the history of each life and using that to expose our sin. He is glorious in His wisdom to articulate truth that’s perfectly crafted to bring life to a dead soul. And perhaps above all, He is glorious in His love for the unlovely.
We have seen Christ reveal Himself and the salvation He provides as living water, which the woman doesn’t grasp but she like the idea of it, because if He can provide water that springs up everlastingly, then she never has to go out in public to get water again, and that can only be a good thing to a woman publicly shamed by her immoral lifestyle.
After stimulating this thirst in her, Jesus then uncovers her sin, at the same time showing Himself to be a prophet with unusual knowledge of her life. His word penetrated her heart, and that’s always the desire for my speech from this pulpit, to penetrate the heart as we speak the Word of God. That God would use it to uncover hearts enslaved and chained by sin.
Feeling conviction, she begins to talk about something seemingly unrelated. She is squirming, and she doesn’t like the focus on her sin. So she starts to talk about the geography of worship. Maybe this prophet can settle the matter of who is right, the Jews or the Samaritans?
What she doesn’t realize is that the topic of worship is not about geography, it’s about the heart. The Samaritans had built a temple in mount Gerazim, and the Jews had their temple in Jerusalem. Which is right? Now I’m not sure she was THAT interested in an answer. There’s an interest, but it’s more about getting off the previous topic. I mean, to ask this question to a Jew, is as predictable as asking a Calgarian, the Flames or Canucks? Choose.
But Jesus gives an amazing answer. Neither! What? A Jew disregarding the importance of Jerusalem? The city of David and where the temple is? The place where thousands flock to for the three pilgrimage festivals? Jesus says, very soon it’s not going to matter.
This passage is striking in its revelation of true worship…
I. JESUS REVEALS THE WHERE OF TRUE WORSHIP v20-22
1. It’s not the Samaritan temple
v20 – About 400 BC the Samaritans erected a rival temple on Mount Gerizim, and 110BC this was destroyed by John Hyrcanus, the Hasmonean ruler in Judea. That’s why she uses the past tense v20.
With Jesus talking to her, she has had a revelation of her sin and her need for mercy makes her think about the religious heritage she had as a Samaritan. Like a typical sinner, she thinks salvation is bound up in a place or practice. But are the Jews right or the Samaritans?
v21 – Jesus gives an interesting answer when He starts talking about “the Father”. Why didn’t He say God? Did she understand this? She seemed to have a respect for the earthy fathers and her roots v12&20.
But Jesus, instead of being like a typical Jew and bragging about the pure genealogy of the Jews, He says, your real concern should be toward “the Father” not “our fathers”. Who would you rather be the child of, “the fathers” or “the Father”? 2. It’s not the Jewish temple ‘the hour’ – in this gospel refers to his death and resurrection. We should keep in mind that if we were reading this gospel careful we might remember that this isn’t the first time the subject of temples has come up. Remember 2:19?
There Jesus made plain that the temple that mattered was not the building they were in, but His body. He was showing that the place for worship is Jesus Christ, and that after they would seek to destroy Him, He would raise up an everlasting temple that the people of God would always come to. And to further cement this fact, God saw fit to destroy the temple in Jerusalem in 70AD, so that there could be no confusion.
v22 – “ye worship ye know not what” – i.e. you have made truth unknowable. You don’t know what you worship. “All good intentions, as they are called, are struck by this sentence, as by a thunderbolt; for we learn from it, that men can do nothing but err, when they are guided by their own opinion without the word or command of God.” John Calvin
“we know what we worship…” – Did Jesus mean all the Jews knew who to worship? (Jn 8:19). So the Jews are as ignorant as the Samaritans in one sense. Nevertheless, because the Jews treasured the entire OT scriptures and had more biblical worship, should there be a desire among them to know the Lord, they would, and many of them did. So they knew (if they sought for it) what they worshipped, whereas the Samaritans were in ignorance because they neglected so much of the scriptures. We might say the Samaritans were confused in their practice and the Jews careless in their practice.
Furthermore, it cannot be missed that He is also identifying that salvation is from a Jewish lineage, not from a Samaritan lineage, so it might rightly be said by Jesus that salvation is of/from the Jews.
The exclusivity of salvation through Christ is under attack. The pressure to open up salvation to all religious expression is upon us. Jn 5:42,46; Matt 10:40.
II. JESUS REVEALS THE HOW OF TRUE WORSHIP v23-24
1. It is immediate – “the hour cometh, and now is”
He is repeating this with the addition of just how close this really is. At the point of Christ’s death, the entire OT Levitical system ended forever. The veil within the Temple that separated the holy place from the holy of holies, was rent from top to bottom. And from that moment God removed all the importance attached to the physical types and shadows, and directed all men to the person and work of Christ alone, who fulfilled all that they represented.
In light of this revelation of Jesus Christ, does it not seem weird to refer to modern day Israel as the Holy Land, as if it has some spiritual significance? According to v21 there will be no holy place, only a holy people whom the Father seeks to worship Him. No more temples, or priests, or altars, or sacrifices, or feasts, or all the various holy days. It’s all gone!
2. It is international- “true worshippers”
i.e. whether Jewish or Samaritan, or whoever. And God had always wanted the worship of the heart, even when the temple worship was in place. “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Is 66:1
God did away with all the types that pointed to Christ, and has spelled it out even more clearly that the individual and collective body of true worshipers make up the sanctuary of God’s resting place, and He has made all true worshippers kings and priests unto Him.
3. It is important – “shall worship the Father…”
Worship is clearly important to the Father. He sends Jesus to gather in those the Father is seeking, and to do everything needed so that the Father could legitimately embraces those for whom He is seeking. But now that Jesus is in Heaven, who is doing the seeking? It is believers in tandem with the Spirit.
4. It is instructed – “in Spirit and in truth”
Spirit refers to life. So you must have spiritual life or you can’t worship. Jn 3:6 – without the Spirit you are just flesh. You are earthy. You have nothing living that pleases God or delights in God. It’s also why many will struggle to understand complete devotion to the Lord, they are not in the Vine. Truth is first of all relating to Christ. No one can worship the Father except through Christ. Jn 16:14 shows that the Spirit’s work is to lead us to Christ. And Christ is revealed in the Word, which is why the scriptures are so vital to lead us to truth. They reveal Christ. When we pray like Moses, “show me thy glory” where do we see it?
There are a lot of Protestant churches today that have gotten away from the biblical and reformed practice of worship. They talk about a worship experience that is detached from prayer and preaching. In order to worship with your entire life in spirit, your mind needs to be informed of the truth.
That’s the purpose beloved. I don’t prepare these messages merely to fill your mind, but to inform your mind and lead it into the truth that results in an entire life of worship. A superficial understanding leads to superficial worship, which is all about manipulation.
III. JESUS REVEALS THE WHO OF TRUE WORSHIP v25-26
1. Because she reveals her knowledge of future change – v25
In response the the Saviour’s clearer revelation that change in worship is about to take place, the woman reveals that she knows Messiah is going to come. What a person knows is critical when it comes to true religion. Being accepted by God just because you’re a ‘good person’ simply has no place in the Word of God. You must know things, and when you’re knowledge is deficient, you need to learn. Nicodemus knew that Jesus came from God, but he didn’t know enough to be saved. This woman knows Messiah will come, but she didn’t know He had arrived. Knowledge is vital.
2. Because He wants her to know him – v26
So here’s the question, is He telling the truth, or is He mad? That’s what you need to answer.