For an introduction to this series, click here.
April 20, 2007
Here we have another very familiar story that takes up most of this chapter: the woman at the well. There are lots of lessons to learn from this story: all men are equal, God uses the useless things for His glory, etc.
One thing I think is overlooked is the importance of worship in this conversation. Jesus first brings up the topic of her husband with the woman, and that certainly didn't sit too well. She tries to change the subject and says, "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." (4:20)
Jesus doesn't seem to mind changing the subject, and gives us the most significant statement about worship in the New Testament: "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (4:21-24)
A lot of people have a lot of ideas about what worship is. I'm not sure anyone has it 100 percent right, but I am also sure practically no one is 100 percent wrong, either. Jesus' statement seems rather nebulous, but there are a few things we can tell for sure. First of all, there are no hard and fast rules, or at least not nearly as many as we like to think. In Jesus' day, the debate was about the place of worship. Jesus is telling her that we can make anywhere a holy place when we worship God. The problem the Samaritans had is the fact that they did not know enough about Jehovah God to worship Him correctly. Jesus brings that up, but He says that can be overcome. Today the debates are mostly over style. We must overcome our blind spots as well in that regard.
Secondly, we can be sure those who emphasize only truth or only spirit have something wrong. Both are required. Worship which overemphasizes spirit or truth are often more exciting for us, either emotionally or intellectually, but it is not what God wants. God wants both our intellect and our emotions engaged in worship. Too often we believers are guilty of choosing one or the other.
I know I haven't got it figured out, but I'm pretty sure those people who say they do have it figured out really don't. I know I seem to say that a lot, but it's the most honest thing I can say a lot of the time.