Summary: What is worship all about? Whom do we worship? How? It is not in Spirit and in Truth. The two are covered by one preposition. Truth and Spirit cannot be separated.
Last week we were introduced to the Samaritan woman. We remember Jesus being led by the Father to go through Samaria. We remember Jesus getting to the well in a state of heat exhaustion so serious that his disciples left him in hostile Samaritan territory alone to get lifesaving refreshment in a Samaritan village. Their willingness to even go into a Samaritan village shows that Jesus was indeed in some difficulty. We remember that the Greek word translated “weary” is in a tense that his condition had not improved by the time the Samaritan woman came at high noon. Yet Jesus in his physical weakness saw that the Samaritan woman was even thirstier than he was for the living water which comes from above. We remember that Jesus drew her into conversation and convinced her that she was truly the one in need of water by telling her about her sinful life which could no longer be hid. With this, we pick up on this week’s lesson.
The Exposition of the Text
The woman, seeing that her sin could no longer be hid knows that Jesus must be more than a mere man. She tells him that she believes that Jesus must be a prophet. There is some indication in the Greek that this could be translated; “Sir I think you might be The Prophet.” The Samaritans believed only the first five books of the Bible, so she is referring to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 that the Lord would send them another prophet like Moses but greater who would teach them everything about what the Law meant. She was starting to make the connection that the person she was talking with might be the promised Taheeb (Messiah) or prophet. But she wasn’t sure at this point.
At any rate she was now the one who is disoriented, not Jesus. She might have thought Jesus delirious earlier, but now she realizes that she is desperately thirsty. Some think she tries to change the subject to throw Jesus off the track concerning her sinfulness, but it is more likely that she is desperate to make things right with God. She had been told all her life that Mt. Gerazim where the ruins of the Samaritan temple was and where they believe that Moses had told them, was the proper place of worship. She also knew the claims of the Jews that the Temple on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem was the proper place of worship. And she knew that Jesus was a Jew. Should she convert and become a Jew and worship at Jerusalem? Would that make things right between her and God? She is searching for how to be saved without fully understanding what that means.
Jesus’ answer must have come as quite a surprise. The jist of what Jesus is saying here is “Woman, it’s none of the above.” It isn’t either Mt. Gerazim nor Mt. Zion. One does not have to convert to being a Jew to be saved. This is good news because many of the Jewish teachers of that day believed a woman couldn’t be saved anyway unless her husband was both saved and willed it. And many would not accept the conversion of a Samaritan under any circumstance, even a man. Jesus has come to introduce a new way.
Jesus does affirm that the Jewish worship is superior in knowledge and prophecy in that God’s plan of salvation had been revealed to them. They had a clearer understanding of what they worshipped because their worship practices were not tainted with the worship practices of other religions like the Samaritans. Also it was the promise of God that the Messiah would come from King David’s descendants. But this prophecy was now being fulfilled in Jesus, and a new way of worship was coming.
Jesus restates himself in verse 23 that the time of change is coming and adds to it that it is now here. The true worshipper must worship the Father “in spirit and truth.” The King James Version has here “in spirit and in truth”, but the second “in” is not in the Greek. You cannot divide spiritual worship and true worship into two different things. The Jews had the more correct knowledge of God than the Samaritans, but their worship was not spiritual. The Samaritan worship had the appearance of being spiritual in the sense that the other religions, such as Baal worship, which the Samaritans had included in their worship was full of emotion. But it was not based upon the truth of God’s Word as they rejected most of the Old Testament and included other Pagan practices and doctrine. The true worshipper must be both spiritual and Biblically sound. These are the worshippers the Father is seeking.
The Old Testament affirms that God is bigger than any Temple that human beings could build. Solomon even stated that the heavens of heavens could not contain God, much less the Temple which he built. Jesus affirms this by telling the woman that God is Spirit and repeats that true worship must be in spirit and truth. Some would say that spirit here is a reference to the Holy Spirit; however, the Greek has no article “the” here. It is not “in the Spirit and truth.” All true believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, but this is not what is being said here.