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John 4:19-24

At this very moment, there are people all over the world in hot pursuit of the ultimate experience. People who will do anything in order to feel truly fulfilled, truly exhilarated, truly satisfied, truly alive; who will try anything in order to chase away the pain they feel inside. And try anything they do, from jumping out of airplanes, to hooking up with new sexual partners, to devoting themselves to the newest spiritual guru, to surgically altering their bodies, or medicating their bodies with the latest designer drugs. And what futility it all is! What chasing after wind! Because after all is said and done, with all of the sophistication and technological innovation that men and women in the 21st-century enjoy, you still can’t fill a God-shaped vacuum with anything but God. Because the only answer to the emptiness and the longing and the guilt and the pain that sinful men and women feel is still the freedom and forgiveness and redemption that can be found only in Jesus Christ.

Beloved, there is no place on earth I would rather be than right here, and nothing I would rather be doing than what we’re doing right now. Because there’s no experience known to man, no experience under the sun that’s more fulfilling, more exhilarating, more satisfying, or more life-giving than the true worship of Christ, than coming into His presence and rejoicing in His salvation, and singing praises to Him, and glorifying Him as our Creator and our Redeemer and our King. When you consider what He’s done for us who belong to Him, that He’s saved us from the futility of living out our lives in sin and hopelessness, that He’s given us new birth and new life, how could we not run joyfully into His presence and thank Him? What could keep us away? We’re having the ultimate experience right here, right now; worshiping the Father, worshiping His Son Jesus Christ!

Turn in your Bibles please to John chapter 4, to the passage we just read. In context, it seems like Jesus almost inadvertently says something very important about worship. Most of us know this story pretty well, that of a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well who has an unexpected encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. She’s a sinful woman – much like ourselves – and in the course of their conversation she finds, to her surprise, that Jesus somehow knows all about her many sins, all about her many husbands and sexual partners. And so she says, abruptly changing the subject, verse 19 of John 4, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship."

The Samaritans were so called because their population centered on the city of Samaria, which had been the capital of the kingdom of the northern tribes of Israel before it fell to the Assyrians in 721 BC. What the Assyrians did was to exile many of the Israelites out of their land and settle in their place peoples they had conquered from other lands. So the Samaritans of Jesus’ time were the end product both of the interbreeding of different ethnic groups, and the intermixing of different religions. And at some point, the Samaritans had built a temple on Mount Gerizim, where they worshiped a god of their own imaginations.

Verse 21 "Jesus said to her, ’Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.’" . . . Soon, very soon, her question would become moot. Because the external forms of Old Covenant worship were about to be fulfilled by the Messiah. And that included the existence of a permanent central place of worship, the temple at Jerusalem where God Himself was present, in the Holy of Holies. Verse 22 "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

What does it mean to worship God in spirit and in truth? Well, what happened when Jesus died on the cross and rose again, and ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father? The prophesied and anticipated central act of God’s plan of redemption was now complete, and all of the types and shadows of Old Covenant worship were fulfilled in Christ. . . . Because Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for sin, there was no longer any need for the temple sacrifices of bulls and goats. Because Jesus is the ultimate priest, the great intercessor between God and man, there was no longer any need for the ministry of temple priests. And because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us – John 1:14, the Word which became flesh and dwelt among us – there was no longer any need for the Jerusalem temple at all. So at the death of Christ, the veil of the temple, Matthew 27:51, which had always separated God’s people from God’s glorious presence, was torn in half from top to bottom.

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