[John 4:21-27] Worship in Spirit and in Truth

21 Jesus said to her,“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” 27 Just then his disciples came back. They marvelled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

John 4:21-27

A. [John 4:25-27] Messianic Expectations Met

The woman said, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” But since Jews had no dealings with Samaritans just how could she know? Messianic expectation is to be found throughout the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi; and although the Samaritans only recognised the Pentateuch/Books of Moses to be Scripture, the woman could have been taught to expect the coming of Christ from them.

There are six directly-applicable predictions of the Messiah in the Pentateuch and at least one other that was possibly shoehorned in as a prediction:-

• [Gen. 3:15] “I will put enmity between you and the woman, | and between your offspring and her offspring; | he shall bruise your head, | and you shall bruise his heel.”

• [Gen. 9:27] “May God enlarge Japheth, | and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, | and let Canaan be his servant.”

• [Gen. 12:1-3] Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

• [Gen. 49:8-12] 8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; | your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; | your father’s sons shall bow down before you. | 9 Judah is a lion’s cub; | from the prey, my son, you have gone up. | He stooped down; he crouched as a lion | and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? | 10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, | nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, | until tribute comes to him; | and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. | 11 Binding his foal to the vine | and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, | he has washed his garments in wine | and his vesture in the blood of grapes. | 12 His eyes are darker than wine, | and his teeth whiter than milk.”

(• [Num. 16:6b] …the man whom the Lord chooses shall be the holy one.)

• [Num. 24:15-19] 15 And he took up his discourse and said, | “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, | the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, | 16 the oracle of him who hears the words of God, | and knows the knowledge of the Most High, | who sees the vision of the Almighty, | falling down with his eyes uncovered: | 17 I see him, but not now; | I behold him, but not near: | a star shall come out of Jacob, | and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; | it shall crush the forehead of Moab | and break down all the sons of Sheth. | 18 Edom shall be dispossessed; | Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed. | Israel is doing valiantly. | 19 And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion | and destroy the survivors of cities!”

• [Deut. 18:15-18] 15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

The woman doesn’t make any exclusive claim that the Messiah would appear to the Samaritans. Perhaps because of that and the woman’s evident longing for the prophet who “will tell us all things” Jesus simply answers, “I who speak to you am he.”

There was no precedent for a conversation like this so the disciples could have had no idea. They were shocked enough by the fact that the conversation was taking place at all and we probably have to deliberately put aside deeply rooted notions of entitlement to appreciate what this revelation meant for the woman at the well.

B. [John 4:23f.] True Worship Coming Imminently

It wasn’t that a Samaritan woman wouldn’t be expected to give a Jewish man a drink of water but that the Jewish man, travelling through Samaria, would be expected to take great pains not to have to ask. The disciples were able to buy food, albeit, we suspect, at high prices. “No dealings” has to be nuanced; we know what it means. Jews could with difficulty bypass Samaria but Samaritans could go nowhere without passing through Jewish territory and at that time, everywhere where there were Jews there was expectation of change. Travellers tell tales: even more likely than that she had been taught about the Messiah is that she had heard talk about the excitement among the Jews, especially about this new purification movement that had huge numbers of people gathering by the River Jordan.

Now here she was talking to a stranger who offered to give her “living water” and was exciting her with the revelation that the Father is seeking such people to worship him as will worship him in spirit and truth for God is spirit. Such talk as she was missing out on by having to come to the well by herself — assuming that she had to come by herself and that the women spoke about these things (big assumption) — was made up for in one conversation. Know this that one serious conversation about what God is seeking can change a life forever so seek to have such a conversation. Be ready for someone to start one. And like the Disciples when you see what might be such a serious conversation be very sure you know what you’re doing before you butt in to ‘help.’

This woman — if we read her circumstances aright — was much more comfortable having conversations with men than with women; scandalously so. And if we know anything about the grievances expressed by such men, every mention of Jerusalem will have triggered resentment at how this upstart place had managed to establish itself as the place where people ought to worship.” despite the best efforts of their forefathers to stop it [c.f. Ezra 4.] Up until now the reports she will have overheard are liable to be of the taunts of Jews boasting of the superiority of Jerusalem and its rights and privileges.

Be careful how you present your tale of the liberties and privileges of the sons of God. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” would have sounded very differently in another kind of conversation so we must especially be careful of quoting Christ out of context. The Samaritans had been wrong to stand in the way of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and even Balaam had prophesied, in spite of himself, to the effect that Salvation is from the Jews.” Nevertheless, Jesus only said it when the woman was ready to hear it and immediately afterwards he was telling her what would not be told in Jerusalem for at least a couple of years.

The Apostle Paul got it right about boasting:-

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Galatians 6:14

As for Jerusalem: Calvary the place of execution was technically outside the city. And the taunts of the crowd were directed there against their as-yet unknown Messiah:-

“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”

Matthew 27:42

So the Hebrews invitation makes an even greater appeal to us if we can hear it through the ears of a woman who originally came out of the city of Sychar in the heat of the day just to draw water from the well:-

Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

Hebrews 13:12-14

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