[The Samaritan woman said:] “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Here we have another profound conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman that will transform us and how we practice our faith completely if we understand it.
As we have already learned, the Samaritans and Jews had a long-standing history of animosity. This was partly because of differences in religious practices and places of worship. Recognizing that Jesus was no ordinary man, the Samaritan woman expressed her confusion about where the proper place of worship should be - the Samaritan mountain or Jerusalem (John 4:20).
Jesus' response was startling. "Neither," he said. "True worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." What does this mean?
To worship God in the Spirit means to engage in a relationship with God that goes beyond external rituals or customs. We often confine God to a physical location, be it a building or a room. But God cannot be confined. Furthermore, believers receive the Holy Spirit, who dwells within them, so literally lives within us. Paul asked pointedly: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" (1 Corinthians 6:19). Consequently, he leads us towards genuine praise, adoration, and devotion to God and even helps us pray! (Romans 8:26-27).
And to worship God in truth is aligning our worship with the revealed truth of God's character, his word, and the person of Jesus Christ. It means developing a relationship with him and being honest and sincere with him. It's about showing God our true feelings, thoughts, and desires without pretending to be someone we're not.
This story has another important lesson to teach us. When we are raised in a particular belief system, the things we are taught become ingrained in us. Consequently, we are not very open to listening to anything that contradicts our beliefs, much less be open to accepting it. However, look at this woman. Though she brought up the division between Samaritans and Jews, she was open to the things that Jesus —a Jew— said. As a result, her life changed forever. Are you open to the things Jesus says, crazy as some of them might sound. Listen with an open mind and you will discover the truth. And the truth, as he will soon say, will set us free.
I gave an hour-long talk on "Worshiping in the Spirit and Truth" a few months ago, and if you want to gain a deeper understanding, Click here to watch it.
God bless you.