Summary: Looking at John 4:21-24, we discover what Jesus really wants from us in our worship.
Open the eyes of my heart – of our hearts. What does that really mean? You know we sing these songs of worship on Sunday morning or with the radio day in and day out, but do we really take the time to think through the words and to search the scriptures to make sure what we are singing is actually Biblical?
Today I am going to delve further behind the words that we see on the screen or read in the hymnals. What I will say today goes deeper – this goes right to the heart. It is the heart behind the words – the heart of a worshiper. If you would, open your Bibles to the fourth gospel of Christ. We will be looking at a very short passage today in John chapter 4, verses 21-24.
21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
In today’s society and within the church (the universal church), we have equated personal opinion with divinely inspired truth. This has created what some have called “worship wars” – and in modern times the argument has been based on whether we should have music during our congregational worship time that is similar to current cultural trends. Listen as I read a quote by an American pastor regarding new trends in worship music:
“There are several reasons for opposing it. One, it’s too new. Two, it’s often worldly….The new Christian music is not as pleasant as the more established style. Because there are so many new songs you can’t learn them all. It puts too much emphasis on instrumental music rather than godly lyrics. This new music creates disturbances making people act indecently and disorderly. The preceding generation got along without it. It’s a money-making scheme, and some of these new music upstarts are lewd and loose."
Perhaps some of you may have felt this way about something new. As Pastor Don asks us to do last week, we need to be flexible and open to change. But I think it would surprise you that the quote I read was not written by a pastor in the 21st century, but the 18th century. He wrote it as an attack against the hymn writer Isaac Watts – who became one of the greatest hymn writers of all time, writing hymns such as “When I Survey The Wonderous Cross”, and “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”.
As you can hear and tell from this 18th century quote, these so called “worship wars” have been going on for a long time, an as we see in John chapter 4, they have been going on for thousands of years. But the point I am trying to communicate today is not my personal opinion on how we should worship – that is the form of worship. The point I want to make today is that worship is far more than words and music. Worship transcends culture and time, because it is directed toward Somthing that transcends culture and time. And God, in the form of Jesus Christ the Son, was intent on breaking down religious barriers to get to what mattered most to him – the heart of a person and in this particular case, the heart of a Samaritan woman.
In the fourth chapter of John, we find Jesus traveling through Samaria on His way to Galilee. Now Samaria was a despictable place for the Jews. They avoided traveling through the land because they hated the Samaritans. The Samaritians were a mixed race of Jews who were left behind during the Babylonian captivity. They intermarried the inhabitants of the land and combined their religious beliefs, while also holding onto some Jewish customs. When the exiled Jews came back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and city, the Samaritans who now worshiped on Mount Gerazim, wanted a part in rebuilding the city. However they caused much trouble for the returning exiles who wanted to return to temple worship and this deep division was created between the two races. By the time Jesus came to them, the Samaritans still believed that true worship should take place on Mount Gerazim and believed, as the Jews did, that God had promised a messiah to establish them as an independent nation.
Jesus, at this point in His ministry regarded as a highly respected Teacher, stops at a Samaritan well and actually talks with a woman – a Samaritan woman at that. He stopped there at the sixth hour, which most likely is around noon. A woman coming alone to the well at noon was an unlikely occurrence, unless the woman was looked down upon and could not come with the other women. This woman was woman of courage, having lost all hope and living on the edge of society. Mark 2:17 quotes Jesus as saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” This encounter is not some chance encounter. NO! This whole event is set up as a purposeful, divine appointment for the woman, the social outcast in need of salvation, to meet the One who would quench her thirst for truth and freedom from her sins – the only One who can give her the living water her heart desires.