Over the last few weeks our focus has been to look at Jesus’ invitation to follow him. We have been reflecting on Jesus’ call to come to him (Matt.11:28-30), to follow him (Luke 5:27-32), to believe him (John 20:19-31) and to abide in him (John 15). As we respond to his call, we begin to know Jesus better and we begin to love him, and part of our response is to obey and to worship him.
Let’s look at Jesus encounter with the Samaritan woman. Read John 4:1-38
Some background to this story is that for many reasons there was tension between Samaritans and Jews. As such, Samaritans were considered outcasts and were despised by the Jews. They had their own religious system in Samaria that competed with the claims of the Jews (see 4:20–24) and believed in the coming of the Messiah (4:25). Jesus “needed to go through Samaria”(v4) because God had a plan for this woman to meet Jesus and find in Him the water of life.
Jesus overcomes a number of barriers to speak to this woman. For a Jewish rabbi to ask a favor of any woman, especially a Samaritan, was surprising to her, she is Samaritan, Jesus is a Jew, and woman did not speak to men in public and while scripture doesn’t record how long they spoke together this conversation is the beginning of a life changing transformation.
In John 4:10, Jesus tells her that she is ignorant of two things:
1. The gift of God (salvation)
2. The identity of the Savior in her presence.
Jesus speaks of living water/water of life but she takes this to mean literal water. Jesus speaks to the natural, the supernatural need and the search she was on. Jesus regularly spoke to the spiritual dimension while others understood at a natural level. (See the story of Nicodemus in John 3:4 where he thought Jesus spoke of physical birth, and then later in John 4:31-34 the disciples thought He spoke of literal food). Jesus points out to the Samaritan woman that the things of the world do not satisfy, and anyone without Christ will always “thirst again. Jesus promises that the water of life will spring up within the heart and keep us constantly refreshed and satisfied: and the woman, still confused, asked for that water.
Having expressed interest in the living water (even though confused), the woman found herself confronted with her sins. Christ’s command, “Go, call your husband!” Revealed a partial response of not having a husband and Jesus speaks into her situation. The woman then sees an opportunity to raise the question on her heart. She takes the opportunity to ask Jesus – what is the right way to worship God?
Jesus pointed out that the important thing is to know the Father, and this can be done only through salvation. Jesus then speaks about the new way to worship God. Jesus expresses that it will be different to Old Testament custom, ritual and tradition and that it would replace the emptiness of her own religious faith.
Worship happens everywhere
The question about where to worship, Mt Gerizim or Jerusalem arises from the differing views between the Samaritans and Jews about the place to worship, Jesus said that this debate about a location will soon be obsolete and worship will no longer be in a particular location, rather true worship will take place everywhere.
In verse 24, Jesus makes the well-known statement about how we worship God - “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth”. Through the cross a new era in which worship begins, worship is no longer about a place, but a person - Jesus. This would be revolutionary for this woman, freeing her from the traditions she had known to encounter God through her heartfelt worship.
Worship happens through everything (in our lives)
Paul continues this new era of worship in Romans 12:1
“Therefore, I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship”.
The first eleven chapters of Romans tell us about God’s love, compassion and grace towards us which leads to our response that includes everything in our lives becoming an act of worship to God. The NKJV says that this is our ‘reasonable service’. Today, our response of worship takes place everywhere and through everything in our lives.
1. Have you experienced any barriers to encountering Jesus?
2. The Samaritan woman’s question to Jesus related to worship, is there a question you would like to ask Jesus?
3. Discuss the different ways we worship today?
4. Discuss some examples of ways you have worshipped God.
5. What can we do to experience heartfelt authentic worship?