By Rodney W. Francis
The Scriptural account of Jesus’ conversation with the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well (John 4) gives us a wonderful insight into the way of true worship. God is seeking true worship from us, and we need to know that anything less is not really acceptable in His sight. For a background to that meeting at the well, let us find out more about the Samaritans.
“The Samaritans were a mixed race descended partly from the Ten Tribes, partly from heathen immigrants (Assyrians). They inhabited central Palestine, between Judaea and Galilee. Their faith was founded on the Pentateuch alone, and they rejected the whole of the other Jewish books” (Young’s Concordance). The Pentateuch are the first five books of the Old Testament. The Samaritans were colonists whom the king of Assyria sent to inhabit the land of Israel after the captivity, and hence were despised by the Jews (2 Kings 17:24-41, John 4:9). They had a temple on Mt. Girizim (John 4:20). Samaria itself was a “hill and city in Ephraim, the capital of the ten tribes of Israel, 42 miles north of Jerusalem” (Young’s Concordance).
The meeting took place at Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph (Genesis 33:19). Jacob’s “parcel of ground” was at Shechem (Joshua 24:32) and Shechem was a very special place to the Samaritans, being their “headquarters” for worship. The Jews (descendants of Judah) had Jerusalem as the centre of their religious worship; and even to this day thousands upon thousands of people flock there to “worship” God (Jerusalem means “possession of peace”).
So we find Jesus sitting on Jacob’s well, right near to the stronghold of Samaritan worship. While He sat there, a woman of Samaria came to draw water from the well. Jesus spoke to her ~ He did what no other Jew would do, and broke through a barrier that had existed between the Jews and Samaritans ever since the captivity. The woman was surprised at Jesus and said, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from Me, a Samaritan? For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9).
JESUS CAME TO GIVE US A BETTER WAY
The Lord Jesus was not there to argue, or to despise, or condemn for their differences of religious beliefs. HE CAME TO GIVE US A BETTER WAY ~ to show us how true worshippers should worship. The word “worship” used in John 4 means “to kiss (the hand) toward”, and other meanings of the word help to give us a clearer picture of what worship is: “to crouch, crawl, or fawn, like a dog at his master’s feet; hence, to prostrate one’s self, after the Eastern custom, to do reverence or homage to any one, by kneeling or prostrating one’s self before him; to bow down, to prostrate one’s self in reverence. Used therefore of the act of worship” (Bullinger’s); “to serve.” The first time the word “worship” is used in the Bible is in Genesis 22:5, where Abraham was taking his son, Isaac, to be sacrificed to God. As my friend, Kerry Wright, says: “Abraham took a knife, not a guitar!” It is all about obedience! For the Christian it is being totally available to the Master’s wishes, with an attitude that whatever He asks of us, we are there to please Him and perform His will. What a difference that would make if we all had such a love relationship with Jesus Christ that we lived totally for His pleasure to be done in and through us! Somehow today we have mis-interpreted worship as being singing and praise in a church service! Let us seek to always be true worshippers of Jesus!
At the time of that meeting at the well, both the Jews and the Samaritans were engaged in their own ways of religious worship, each believing that they were doing the right thing in the eyes of God. They were worshippers, but they were not True Worshippers.
Jesus testified of the Living Water that fully satisfies ~ that all who thirst after, shall receive. The woman was thirsty for a life that would really satisfy. She had tried to find it in her religion; and in having five husbands.... but still the longing for “something better” persisted. The Lord Jesus ministered to that woman’s heart by telling her all that she ever did! She perceived (saw) that Jesus was a prophet, a Man of God.
WORSHIP IS BY GRACE, NOT A PLACE
Now I want you to especially notice John 4:20-24; - “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain (Mt. Gerizim), and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” (The Samaritans believed Mt. Gerizim was the true place of worship, while the Jews believed Jerusalem was the right place). This “pride of place” and “pride of race” still blinds millions of worshippers TODAY. Jesus came to break down the “worship” barriers also, and especially in our time we are seeing a mighty moving of the Holy Spirit in numbers of churches, transforming traditional worshippers into true worshippers.
What was Jesus’ answer to this Samaritan woman’s statement? (John 4:20-21). He said, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.” Jesus made it clear that true worship was not a case of race, or place; but rather grace! For it takes the grace of God working in us to make us acceptable in His sight.
The Samaritans were worshipping God in ignorance ~ the Jews according to knowledge, because God had chosen to bring to pass His great plan of Salvation in the midst of the Jewish people. It almost seems like Jesus was trying to revile the Samaritans in verse 22; but quickly moves on to show how both the Samaritans and the Jews NEEDED TO EXPERIENCE FROM WITHIN THEMSELVES the joys of true worship. The time had come for the true worshippers to worship the Father IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH. At that very moment of time Jesus had brought the way of true worship to that woman! For years she had worshipped according to the traditions of the Samaritans’ religion: ignorantly, and deeply entrenched in sin! But on the day when SHE MET JESUS IN REALITY she was changed from within to give true worship to God the Father! Praise God!
JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO GOD!
Jesus is the only way to God the Father. When Jesus comes into our heart, He comes in by His Spirit, and in all truth (reality). If there is no reality of Jesus in the heart, then there can be no true worship unto God! The Father is seeking such to WORSHIP HIM ... and “they that worship Him, must worship Him in Spirit and in truth” (v. 23-24). God is a Spirit and must be worshipped in Spirit. The entrance to the place of becoming a true worshipper is by accepting the words of Jesus: for His words “are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
Without the reality of Jesus Christ in our heart, there can be no true and acceptable worship unto the Father. In these days of abounding religions it is very important that we are found following God according to the clear instructions of His Word, and not seeking to worship Him through the traditions and ideas of men. If we do not know CHRIST in all reality, then our life, no matter how good we may think we are, is every bit as sinful as the life of that Samaritan woman before she made that wonderful visit to the well. She found Jesus truly satisfied her every need ... and He will do the same for you, just as soon as you give Him the chance.
“O WORSHIP THE LORD IN THE BEAUTY OF HOLINESS” (Psalm 96:9).