Summary: Place is not a barrier to worship. Place is irrelevant. We do not worship a place. We worship in spirit. This is not referring to the Holy Spirit; this refers to the heart. We must worship with the heart.
5 Priorities of the Church
“Breaking down the Walls”
I am reminded of a young boy who asked his mother if she could remember the highest number she ever counted to. She said well really can’t remember so why don’t you tell me what the highest number is you have ever counted to. He said sure, it’s 5372. The mother was kind of puzzled when she said why did you stop at 5732? He said, “Simple, church was over.” In various surveys when people are asked why they don’t go to church many people give the same answer… it’s just too boring. Others say, it’s not relevant. Or I can worship God anywhere.
The word worship is a very broad term and if you were to ask 100 different people to define worship-you would be very likely to get 100 different answers.
In our Scripture for today we find that Jesus was traveling and He had to go through Samaria. While traveling he comes to the town of Sychar and the reason that is important is that there was a small piece of property there that was owned by Jacob and he had given it to his son, Joseph and on that property there was a well. Jesus is traveling; he is tired, he is hot and he is thirsty so he sits down by the well. The Bible says it was about the sixth hour meaning that it was about noon. This was the hottest part of the day.
He encounters a woman from Samaria and he asked her, will you give me a drink? The woman says to Jesus, you are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman how can you ask me for a drink? Now this is why she asked this question.
Jesus was a rabbi so he was forbidden to speak to a woman in public. If a rabbi was in public with his wife or daughter or sister he was not allowed to speak to any of them. If a rabbi was seen speaking to a woman in public everyone lost respect for him. It was the end of his reputation-he was ruined-yet Jesus spoke to this woman. There even Pharisees who were called the “bruised and bleeding Pharisees” because they would shut their eyes when they saw a woman on the street and then they would often walk into a stone wall. Their own religion became a barrier to them.
Now it is a bit odd for this woman to come to this place-was over a half mile to walk there and there was water right in her own town. One possibility is that she was an outcast because of her lifestyle. Jesus came to break down barriers. The Jews and Samaritans had been fighting for over 400 years. There were cultural differences. There were racial differences and there was a great deal of hatred between the two. The Jews felt they were superior so you can perhaps imagine how surprised she was when Jesus spoke to her. Jesus worked almost day and night during his 3.5 years of ministry doing this very thing-breaking down barriers. Jesus was all about breaking down barriers.
• When the Pharisees complained against Jesus for eating with tax collectors and with sinners he simply said I didn’t come to help those who are well, I came to help the sick. Jesus was breaking down a religious barrier.
• Zacchaeus was a tax collector. Luke tells us he was a sinner in the eyes of the public. Jesus saw him and invited himself to go to his house. This was unheard of in that day. Jesus was breaking down a social barrier.
• Lepers were not allowed to have contact with anyone other than immediate family. They were outcasts. When they came into the city they had to wear a bell hanging around their neck and had to bring it and shout out unclean, before they were allowed to walk through the city. Yet Jesus not only approached a man with leprosy, He reached out and touched him and healed him. Jesus was breaking down a physical barrier.
• Women had very little standing in that day yet Jesus did more to lift up the status of women than any other individual in history. Women could not speak in public with men. They could not walk in front of their husbands. Girls were not allowed to go to school. Women had no place or voice in worship. In the Jewish service today they still cannot sit with the man. Jesus was breaking down a cultural barrier.
So we can perhaps begin to understand why this woman asked this question. You will even see in parenthesis in the Bible here that John felt he needed to explain this to us. Verse 10. Now Jesus cuts right to the quick, right to the basics and offered this woman living water. This was confusing to the woman because it would be like me talking about steak and potatoes but then I expect you to understand that I’m actually talking about spiritual food. She couldn’t make the transition.