Description / Transcription
Let’s pray. Remember O Lord, Your Word to Your servant in which You have made us hope. This is our comfort and our affliction, that your promises give us life. When we think of Your rules from of old, we take comfort, O Lord. The earth is full of Your steadfast love. Teach us Your statutes, we pray, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of John, chapter 4. John chapter 4, verses 16 through 26. Moving our way, as is our habit, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, through a book of the Bible. We have been in John for several months, and in particular taking three weeks, this is the second, to look at this story of the woman at the well. John chapter 4, beginning at verse 16:
“Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying ‘I have to husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 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.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
I want you to keep your Bibles open, but I want you to take out your bulletin, okay? Almost everyone has a bulletin. I want you to look at this, it’s got the nice design on the front, Christ Covenant Church, it looks sharp. Now you go inside and you see the very top. You see what it says there? “Morning Worship.” You can go over to the back and it says “Evening Worship.” Nothing too revolutionary there. Probably could have spotted that before. Morning worship, evening worship. As simple as that is, and as obvious as that might be, I want to encourage you to keep in mind every Sunday you’re here what it says right there. This is why we’re here, right? To worship. Not to be entertained, not here because it provides some social standing in the community, not here that we might just fulfill a religious duty, “I go to church, that’s what I do.” We’re where because of this label: “Worship.”
Now let me just say some of you may be here because you want to learn more about Christ, and that’s wonderful, we love to have visitors, we love to have the curious. And so you may not be here to worship, you’re here to learn more about what Christians believe. We’re glad you’re here.
But for most of us, we call ourselves Christians. For most of us, this is our church home. And we simply need to realize that coming to church and worshiping are not always identical. They ought to be, we wish that they were, but if we’re honest, they’re not. It is very possible to come to church, go to church, to do it for years and years and years, with your parents bringing you or your spouse bringing you, or even you just come to church, and yet not be worshiping. Sometimes it happens slowly, imperceptibly. We lose sight of why we really are here or why we really ought to be here. This is called a worship service. It begins with a “call to worship.” The bulletin lists those assisting in worship. Under the offering, it says “this element is an essential aspect of our worship.” We’ve just welcomed Nathan here as a pastor of worship. So there should be no missing the fact that what we are gathering here to do for these 80 or 90 minutes, is to worship. We’ve gathered as redeemed creatures to sing and share and learn and pray so that we might worship our Holy Creator.
Is that why you’ve come? Is that why you’re here? Is that what you come to do Sunday after Sunday? I am here to offer worship. Yes, to receive more grace from the Lord’s hand. We all realize we receive more from God than we ever give. He needs nothing from us. He receives nothing from us in one sense, but we come to worship. Is that why you’re here?
That’s what this passage is about. I am not smart enough to have planned that, that the first Sunday for a new worship pastor was going to be this text from John chapter 4 that has to do with worship, but it does, in God’s providence.
I said two weeks ago that this episode with the woman at the well has three acts to it. You could call the first act “water,” then “worship,” and then “witness.” The second act, “worship.”
I want to lay out for you this morning three principles of true worship. Think of them as three thesis statements about worship. Three statements. Here’s the first: God already knows if you are a true worshiper. He knows why you’re here, He knows what’s in your heart, He knows what’s in your past, He knows what’s in your present, He knows what’s in your future. He already knows if what you’ve been doing in these first 45 minutes is worship or something else. We see here Jesus knows you better than you know yourself.
Look at verse 16. Jesus says to this woman “go call your husband and come here.” Now that may seem out of place, a bit random, but it’s all a part of His plan to reveal who He is, to reveal to the woman what she cannot and has not perhaps admitted about herself. It’s one of the things you see all over the Gospels. Jesus is several steps ahead of everyone He meets. Just note this about Jesus, okay: You cannot trick Jesus. You cannot trap Jesus. Jesus knows what He is up to with you. So you might as well just admit it. You’re not going to hide something from Him, you’re not going to say “well, that was, you know, I locked up that part of my journal, Jesus does not see it. Or as long as I don’t give voice to it, or as long as I put those bottles away, Jesus won’t know about it.” No, Jesus is several steps ahead of all of us, just like He is with this woman.
So He says “get your husband.” And her response is technically true. She says “I have no husband.” Now we don’t know exactly how she says it. Might it be that she spoke with sorrowful resignation? Jesus says “go get your husband” and she looks to her feet and says “I, I have no husband.” Perhaps. But more likely it seems that she’s in this interaction with Jesus, trying to say something that is technically true that will perhaps get this rabbi off of her back and avoid any further probing.
We are masters at saying things that are technically true. You ever hear this sort of thing in your house? I just heard is yesterday. “Stop it, stop it. Why are you kicking me? Dad, mom, he, she, kicking me.” Then she says “I’m not kicking him.” “You were, too.” “I’m not kicking you right now.” [laughter] Yes, it is, you know, you don’t have to teach them, well, you do have to teach them grammar, but they learn the difference between, you know, past and present. “I am not kicking you, what’s the big deal? I’m not kicking you.” It’s like the “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you.” [laughter] “Did you have my piece of pizza?” “I don’t have your piece of pizza,” knowing that, “well, I’ve already eaten it, I don’t have it anymore, it’s long gone. [laughter] I don’t have it.”
Or perhaps, more sophisticated as adults, you ever ask someone “so where you going to church?” “Ah, still, you know, we’re, we’re in between. We’re still looking, we’re still looking,” which often means “we’ve been three times in the past five years, but it’s a long look, we’re still looking”
“Bring your husband.” “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus says, “you’re right. You are right. You have no husband. You’ve had five husbands and now your sleeping with a man who’s not your husband.” We don’t know the story, we don’t know the backstory. Is she a widow five times over? Divorced? Judaism of the day allowed for divorce, but the rabbis frowned upon multiple divorces, three or more they thought was unseemly in this particular instance. Could have been even worse than that. The word “aner” translated as “husband” can mean husband or it can mean man, either of those. Jesus could be saying, you know, “bring your man.” She says “I don’t have a man.” “Well, yeah, you’ve had five men. The man your with now isn’t even your man.” So perhaps she was just divorced five times, or, or maybe she’s been sleeping around for years and years, a serial fornicator.
Whatever the exact situation, it doesn’t seem like she has a pristine past. She has cycled through men, or men have cycled through her. We don’t know to what degree she is to blame or not, but it certainly would have seemed suspicious, would have seemed scandalous. And now she is living with a man who is not her husband.
That last line you see in verse 18 may have rung in her ears like a kind of judicial sentence from her own lips. “What you have said is true. You said it yourself, you have no husband. I asked you to bring your husband. You said -year-old have no husband. You said it yourself. The man that you are now sleeping with is not your husband.”
Two weeks ago she engages with this dialogue about water, and she doesn’t understand that kind of water that He brings. “Where are you going to get this water? Where do have living water? You don’t have a rope. You don’t have a bucket.” And He says “if you drink from this water, you never thirst again,” and she says, in verse 15, “Sir, give me this water so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” She knew she was thirsty. But she didn’t begin to know just how thirsty she really was.
Some of you may be there. You may be, you know you’re needy, you know you’re life is not where you want it to be, you know your life is not where God wants it. You know you are thirsty for something new, something better, something more, and yet you may not have any idea just how deep that thirst really is. When she told Jesus “I’m thirsty,” did she know just how deep and how parched she really was? She had thirst that she perhaps didn’t even want to admit to herself, let alone to this strange Jewish rabbi in front of her.
God knows you better than you know yourself. He does. He knows me better than I know myself. It’s one of the themes in John’s Gospel. Jesus has this special knowledge of the human person.
If you flip back to chapter 1, verse 47: “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” He knew something. Whether by supernatural insight as the Son of God or by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit or by the ability to know people at first glance, He has an insight. He says “there comes a man, an Israelite, in whom there is no guile. That’s a straight shooter, Nathanael. I can see right through him.”
Or look at chapter 2, verse 25. [Verse] 24 says “Jesus on His part did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all people and He needed no one to bear witness about man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” The crowds were coming. The crowds were flattering him. The crowds were enthused about Him, and He did not entrust Himself to the crowds, ’cause He knew what was in them. He knew what they were like. He knew them better than they knew themselves.
And then we have, in chapter 3, Nicodemus, verse 3: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus could see straight through Nicodemus, straight through all of his proper etiquette and attire and his privileged position in Judaism. He knew here’s a man, he’s saying a lot of the right things, he’s got the right look, he’s got the right pedigree, and he is not born again.
Jesus knew Nathanael, Jesus knew the crowds, Jesus knew Nicodemus, Jesus knows this woman, and Jesus knows what’s going on in your heart. He knows your past mess. He knows your present pain. He knows whether you’re coming here in sincerity or whether you’re hiding something. No one else may know; pastors may not know, your own family many not know. Jesus knows.
He knows how deep the hurt is. He knows if you’re going through the religious motions week after week. He knows if, if you’re going to church or if you’re worshiping. God knows why you’re here. If you’re 8 or you’re 80, He knows. And since you can’t hide anything from Jesus, you might as well be honest with Him. You might as well be honest with Him in prayer. You might as well sometime, if, if the Spirit is convicting you this morning, get a quiet place or talk to someone, or just alone with the Lord, tell Him. You’re not fooling Him. You’re not hiding anything from Him. You’re not gonna ever bring something to God and it be a surprise to Him. You’re not going to bring Him your sin and God’s gonna sort of be “hey, angels, get a look, I’ve never seen this before. Did you see? I’ve seen a lot of messes, but this, this, this family right here, eek, I don’t know what we’re gonna do.” He’s not surprised. He knows.
God already knows if you’re a worshiper. He knows why you’re here. He knows what you’re doing. He knows what’s in your heart.
Jesus knew this woman better than she knew herself. That’s the first statement. God already knows if you’re a worshiper.
Here’s the second statement: Worship must be according to knowledge. Worship must be according to knowledge.
It’s hard to tell when there’s humor in the Bible. It, it’s not meant to be a particularly funny book, we all get that. And yet, I have a hard time not thinking verse 19 is funny, and that it’s meant to be funny. I mean, “bring your husband,” “I don’t have a husband,” “you’re right you don’t have a husband, you’ve had five husbands. The man you’re living with now is not your husband.” The woman says “I perceive that you’re a prophet.” [laughter] Okay, I see that there’s, I see you, Jesus. There’s something about you here. You may be a special guy.
Now what she understood by the term prophet, did she mean “you’re the prophet,” or “you’re just a spiritual man” or “you have insight,” we don’t know, but she certainly recognized from that little exchange “okay, I I I’m dealing with someone who has some supernatural insight. You’re a prophet.” You think so?
She goes on then to ask about a mountain. Now many people, you read the commentaries, think she is making a diversion, a distraction, she’s saying “oh, okay, he’s getting into my personal life, umm, he’s asking about the man that I’m sleeping with now, you’re a prophet…. Hey, umm, just curious. How do you settle the mountain thing?” And people see that she’s just bringing up, this is what we do when God gets into our life, we know how to get just “umm, I really wanted to ask you a theological question, so do you think baptism should be with pouring or sprinkling? What do you think?” Or “are the decrees of God infralapsarian or supralapsarian?” That’s what you go to seminary for, to learn that you can say those words and then make a joke about it. [laughter]
So what is it? People think the woman is just making a diversion. Maybe. But I, I, I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt. I think it’s a genuine question. And the question, though it seems odd to us, “you’re a prophet, hey, I’ve got a mountain question,” actually goes together, because when she recognizes “okay, this rabbi, this Jewish man, obviously is someone unique, he’s a prophet, I want to ask him the question that a prophet needs to answer for me. What do you think, prophet, about this great stumbling block between us, that is the location of true worship? Which mountain?”
You need to understands the history between the Jews and the Samaritans. Deuteronomy 12:5 says “but you shall seek the place that the Lord Your God will choose out of all your tribes to put His name and make His habitation there.” So the Pentateuch says there’s going to be a time, and you’ll find this place. God is going to choose a place for His home, for His manifestation on earth, for His temple. And the Jews and the Samaritans drew differing conclusions from Deuteronomy 12:5. We know, from the Old Testament, that the temple was built in Jerusalem. But the Samaritans did not acknowledge the temple in Jerusalem, they believed that the temple should be built, and in fact they did build a temple, on Mount Gerizim, so instead of Mount Zion, the temple mount in Jerusalem, they did Mount Gerizim, and there had been a conflict between the two.
You know, a conflict between Wake County and Mecklenburg County. What’s the real engine in North Carolina? Okay, we all know the answer to that. And some of you say “no, it’s Union County,” and then that’s the extent of all the counties that I’ve learned so far. [laughter]
This was the religious issue between the two. The Samaritans, remember I said two weeks ago, they did not accept the authority of the Old Testament outside of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. And the Pentateuch does not specifically state where the temple is to be built. Now later, 2 Chronicles and the psalter, all over the place, it states Jerusalem will be the home for the holy temple. But the Samaritans didn’t recognize the rest of the Old Testament, and so the Samaritans established their own sanctuary on Mount Gerizim. And they had reasons for it. Shechem, which was the city overlooked by Mount Gerizim, and in fact that may be where Jesus and this woman are at the moment, at Shechem or somewhere nearby, Shechem was the first place Abraham built an altar when he entered the promised land. Mount Gerizim, you may recall, was the place from which blessings would be pronounced on the covenant people. Mount Ebal was where the curses would be pronounced and Mount Gerizim was where the blessings would be pronounced. So they did have reasons to think Mount Gerizim was a special place. And since they had nothing beyond the Pentateuch that they acknowledged, they felt free to ignore those instructions and they decided Mount Gerizim is the temple.
It was probably in plain view of Jesus and the woman at this moment. It was adjacent to Jacob’s well. Alexander the Great had given permission to the Samaritans to build a temple there. It was later torn down in 128 B.C. by a Jewish king, but they continued to worship Yawheh on Mount Gerizim. No temple there.
So with all the other ethnic personal baggage between the two groups, this was the central religious disagreement: Which mountain is it?
Turn back to the Gospel of Luke for a moment. I’ll show you something you may not have noticed before. Luke chapter 9, verse 51: “When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem. And He sent messengers ahead of Him who went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for Him. But the people did not receive Him,” notice this, “because His face was set toward Jerusalem.”
You ever make that connection before? Why? Why are the Samaritans so upset with him? That He set, there’s the because, because He set His face toward Jerusalem. The Samaritans were upset with Jesus because of this whole mountain business. He went through there and some sort of conversation ensued, and He said “I’m going to go and I’m going to suffer and I’m going to die and the central place here in our day of God’s doing with man is in Jerusalem.” And they said “uh uh, uh uh, not Jerusalem. We reject You. You’re not the One. You’re not the Prophet. You’re not the Restorer because you have Jerusalem, we have Mount Gerizim.”
Verse 54, when His disciples, James and John, saw it, they had a very mature response, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” I see, Jesus, they don’t like you, should we kill them now or kill them later? “But He turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.” It gives you an insight into the religious animosity.
So when the woman in John 4 is asking this question, it’s not a diversion, it’s a sincere question. “You’re a prophet, help me understand this.”
Here’s how one author puts it: “How can you, a Jew, and in fact a Jewish prophet, speak about the gift of God and of living water with me, a woman of Samaria (and what a woman), as if this mountain were not an enormous stumbling block between us?”
The Jews and the Samaritans literally had a mountain between them.
Jesus answers her question. He answers her question to a prophet as a prophet would answer. He says “woman, believe me.” Now “woman” is neither endearing nor derogatory here, it’s something like “ma’am” or “madam.” He says “the hour is coming,” it’s a prophetic way of putting things, “the hour is coming.” There’s a new day approaching. A new dawn coming. A new regime change just on the way. And when this day arrives, it’s going to make this whole business about the mountains irrelevant.
That doesn’t mean Jesus refuses to take sides. He clearly thinks, correctly, according to the Scriptures, that God chose Jerusalem to be the place of worship.
Psalm 76:1 says “in Judah God is known.” Salvation is of the Jews. Not only that salvation would come through a Jewish man, Jesus, but more broadly, salvation was to come from this stream of revelation which privileged to this point the Jews as God’s special people. The line of revelation, the line of the chosen prophets, has come through the Jewish people, Jesus acknowledges.
And then He says to her a word that must have been startling. Verse 22: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know.” We worship what we know.
Now Paul in Romans 10:2 will later say about his own Jewish countrymen that they had a zeal for God that was not according to knowledge. So it’s not that all the Jews were getting this right either. Most of them weren’t.
But here He’s speaking to this Samaritan, and He says in terms of God’s revelation and God’s economy, you worship what you do not know, we worship what has been given to us, revealed from God Himself.
I wonder if you have understanding, if you worship what you know. Could you articulate the storyline of the Bible if someone on a plane says “hey, I see you’re reading the Bible. What’s the Bible about?” Could you give a 30-second, a 3-minute, a 5-minute answer to that? Do you know who Jesus is? Do you know what the gospel entails? Can you communicate it? Do you know? Jesus says “you worship what you don’t know.”
Sometimes in our day people wax very eloquent about, you know, “God is just this mysterious cloud of unknown in and man, you guys are putting God in a box and you’ve got all your doctrines about Him and man, I just, God is just so mysterious.” As if when Paul went into Athens and said “I see you have a statue to an unknown god,” Paul said “hey, that’s great. I have an unknown God. I don’t know God either.” No, Paul said “what you worship is unknown, I will declare to you.”
For sure there are aspects of God’s character and nature that are beyond human comprehension, mysteries that we will not fully unravel. But God has revealed himself to us. We know God. We ought to know God, and worship must be according to knowledge.
So listen very carefully. Sincerity does not save. Sincerity does not save. Some of you may love that old hymn, and I’m sorry to blow it up here, but “you ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” That’s good for Jesus to live in your heart. You don’t think there’s a Buddhist who’s not “ask me about Buddha, he lives in my heart.” There’s not a Hindu who says “ask me about Krishna, he lives in my heart.” If that’s the only reason Jesus is Lord is because He lives in your heart, that’s not enough reason. Sincerity will not save you.
One of my cousins, he stood up in my wedding, he’s a friend and he’s very funny, and he said the motto over our family crest should be “we mean well.” [laughter] That’s what someone was thinking. He means well, he’s sincere, he really believes it. You don’t think there’s, there’s Mormons who really, really believe. Or Muslims who really, really believe what they believe? Your sincerity, by itself, will not save.
When I went off to college I, I grew a lot in my faith. It’s a time as it is for a lot of college students of really making all these things I had learned my own and, and was getting good preaching from the chapel program at the school and going to a good church, and I was just growing, growing, growing. I was starting to read books and because I went to kind of a middle of the road Christian school, I could look around me and see lots of hypocrisy. I could see lots of people who were in chapel on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and I knew what they were doing on Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I saw lots of people who were singing the worship songs, raising their hand, and I, I knew what they were doing with the rest of their weeks.
And I was really serious though. And I was growing and I was learning. And I suddenly developed this erroneous mindset that my faith was true because I was more serious about it than other people. And then I became good friends with a devout Catholic, and it threw me for a loop. She once told me that I was going to become a Catholic someday. I said “oh, really?” She said “yeah, you’re too smart not to be.” That’s like a, you know, compliment/insult, pow pow pow. Well, I guess I’m not smart enough yet, or nor will I be. But she, so we would have friendly discussions about doctrine and important parts of faith, and she was giving me her reasons for this thing about the Pope or this thing about Mary, and I never found any of her reasons very convincing. I never thought they were intellectually compelling. I didn’t think they had a lot of Scriptural merit to it. But here’s what threw me for a loop: She really believed it, and she was very sincere, and very committed to her faith.
One of the things parents, educators, what we need to do with young people, we, we need to introduce them to people who are very sincere in believing other things, otherwise they’re going to be “whoa, whoa, whoa, I, I thought I was the only who really believed stuff and now I meet Muslims who believe stuff and every way must be okay because I’ve just sort of assumed that you’re saved because you really, really believe it.”
You’re not saved by faith in faith, contrary to what any number of Disney movies will tell you. You’re not saved by just believing something. Your, your faith must have an appropriate object. So yes, sincerity matters, this sermon is in part about sincerity, but is must be directed upon the proper object of your faith. Do you understand what you believe? Can you articulate what you are doing? Do you know the One whom you profess to worship?
It would be a sad thing for Jesus to say about any of us “you worship what you do not know.” Yeah, you mean well. Yeah, you’re into it. Yeah, you’re emotionally engaged. But you don’t understand. And it’s not true.
Which brings us to a final point. Here’s the third thesis on worship: The Father is looking for worshipers to worship Him in spirit and truth.
Jesus repeats, in verse 23, this prophetic prediction: He says the hour is coming. But He adds a new twist. You notice in verse 21 He says “the hour is coming, when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” He’s speaking of the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., and once that happens, Jerusalem, Gerizim, the whole debate goes away, there’s no temple. But now He says no, that’s future, this is present and future, “the hour is coming and is now here.” This prophetic fulfillment is now, it’s right in front of you. The Father means to reorient you to true worship. He’s seeking true worshipers.
Don’t let that pass you by, the end of verse 23, “and the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.” Let that sink in. God does not need anything. He’s not seeking because He lacks something. When it says He’s seeking, it’s not because He’s incapable of finding. That’s not what it means. When it says “He’s seeking” it means “this is what He wants from you.” This, men, women, and children, is what pleases Him. This is what impresses Him. He’s not looking for people who can look nice on Sunday. He’s not looking for people with a spotless past. He’s not looking for the best and the brightest. He’s not looking for the strong and the significant. It does not say He’s looking for winners. It says He’s looking for worshipers.
Notice His definition of true worship. He mentions it twice, in verse 23 and 24: “True worshipers worship the Father in spirit and truth.” So what does that mean, spirit and truth? Spirit is connected to this affirmation that God is spirit. You see in verse 24: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” So something about the spirit and truth is connected to the fact that God is spirit. There’s a connection between those two realities. God is a spiritual as opposed to a material being.
Isaiah 31:3 says “the Egyptians are man and not God, and their horses are flesh and not God.” Do you see the parallel there? Man not God, flesh not God. To be God is to in your Godness not have flesh. That’s why the incarnation is such a mystery and a miracle, that God, who by definition does not have flesh, took on flesh. God is invisible. God is immaterial. That’s what it means when it says “God is spirit.” He, He doesn’t have a body.
Therefore proper worship of God is a matter of the spirit rather than a matter of physical location. Remember in the background here, literally in the background, is this controversy about the mountain. Which mountain is it, Gerizim or Jerusalem? Jesus says “look, God is spirit, and if you’re to worship Him, you must worship Him in spirit and truth.” Which surely means God’s not going to accept your worship or not based on your physical location. It’s not that “well, I’m in my home” or “I’m in a church building” or “I’m in some place of great sanctity.” It’s not the place, you don’t have to, you don’t ever have to go to Israel. You don’t have to get water from the Jordan River. You don’t have to pay those people on TV to get that water that they’re running out of their tap and putting “Jordan River” on it, probably. You don’t have to do that. It’s not a matter of physical location. It’s not a matter of physical posture, though that may give expression to our worship. It’s not geography, but a matter of the spirit. And truth.
True worship must be connected to and rooted in the revelation of God the Father in the person of Jesus, the Son. As one author puts it, “no matter how ceremonially elaborate, emotionally rousing, or sermonically eloquent, worship that is not offered from a proper understanding of who God is falls short.”
Did you hear that? I can be the most polished speaker with the best illustrations. We can have the choir and the orchestra that is envy of every other church. We can have a beautiful sanctuary. We can have a liturgy that is impeccably put together, and if we do not have an understanding who God is, it’s not worship.
Which means as a starting place, we must recognize who Jesus is. You see at the end of this story, the woman, verse 25, says “I know the Messiah is coming. He was called Christ.” Messiah is Hebrew for “anointed one,” Christ is Greek for “anointed one,” they mean the same thing, “and when He comes He will tell us all things.” You can almost hear in her voice a sense of expectation: The Messiah’s going to tell us all things, like maybe, maybe He’ll tell us how many husbands we’ve had, and whether, He’ll even know if the man I’m living with now is my husband. Maybe, maybe you’re Him?
And stunningly, Jesus replies, tersely and dramatically, “The One who speaks to you, that’s Me.” Ego eimai, in the Greek. I am.
What’s more stunning? That Jesus is the Messiah or that He first reveals Himself in John’s Gospel as the Messiah to this sin-soaked, serial adultery? Is that how’d you lay it out? Yeah, she, she’s the first one who should get to know, for sure.
Part of it is, in all the Gospels, He’s more willing to be candid about His identity when He is outside of Jewish territory, because the Jews had all of this baggage about the Messiah–He was going to be a military ruler, He was going to get the Romans off their backs–and so they were more prone to misunderstanding. But more than that, I think Jesus is simply happy to encourage even the smallest bit of faith. So when this woman, who doesn’t understand much but is understanding more and more, says to Him “the Christ is going to tell us all things, what do you think?” And He says “yeah, that’s Me.” What an astounding admission for Jesus to make to this woman.
The Father is seeking, searching for worshipers. And don’t you love again how Jesus will talk to anyone. He’ll talk to Nicodemus, he’ll talk to the woman at the well, he’ll talk to anyone who’s coming genuinely, honestly, candidly, and He’ll speak, if you can listen. Are you what the Father is looking for? The Father is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Sometimes in our day we have people say “well, I could never worship a god who” fill in the blank. Or “the god I worship would never” send people to heel, would never tell two people who love each other that they can’t get married, would never tell me that I shouldn’t get a divorce, or the god I love would never tell me that I shouldn’t do whatever makes me happy, fill in the blank. We hear that all the time. Some of us think that, feel that.
The Bible is not terribly interested in the sort of god that you and I are seeking. The Bible is very interested in the sort of worshipers that God is seeking. Are you the one the Father is looking for? Are you here Sunday after Sunday for true worship? Worship in spirit? It’s not just what you see or what you can put on or where you can be, but spirit. And in truth. Not just what you feel, but what you think, what you know.
We might describe it in our terms as head and heart, that in your heart worship is not just a ritual, it’s not just a habit, it’s not someone’s borrowed religion. God has no grandchildren. You can’t get into heaven because your, your mom and dad were good Christians.
And then your head, that’s your heart, your head. Is it based on knowledge? Is it based on the Word? Is it based on God’s revelation of Himself? Not just your ideas about God.
The Father is looking. What is He finding?
Isn’t it wonderful to think that God Almighty, the Father in heaven, looking down, Sunday after Sunday here, looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth, that He might look upon you, in all of your sin and in all of your struggles and all of your failures and weakness, and yet because you worship in spirit and truth, He might look upon you and say “that’s who I’m looking for. She’s the one I wanted to find. That’s the family I was hoping would be here. He’s just the sort of person that I wanted to see.” Not because of what you put on, but what you know, what you have, and who you worship.
Let’s pray. Our gracious heavenly Father, we come to You, we hope in spirit and truth, coming humbly that you would revive us, change us, fill us. Increase our numbers, O Lord. Show us if there be any wicked way in us. And we pray that you might receive our worship, feeble as it is, and be pleased, and find us to be faithful. In Christ we pray. Amen.