True Worship- John 4:19-24

In John 4, Jesus is travelling and stops at a well in Samaria, where He has an encounter with a Samaritan woman, and it is in His conversation with her in which He tells us what true worship really is. Some background information is needed, however, in order for us to properly understand what is going on in this passage. The Samaritans were a people who originated in the time in which Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the north (whose capital was Samaria) and the south (whose capital was Jerusalem). At the time in which Jeroboam was king of the northern kingdom, he set up a worship site at Mount Gerizim to compete with the temple in Jerusalem, and the Samaritans are the descendants of those who worshipped at Mount Gerizim. They believed that only the first five books of the Hebrew bible were truly Scripture, and awaited the messiah, who would be a prophet from among them, according to Deuteronomy 18:12-15. They also conducted their own sacrifices at their worship site on Gerizim. Jesus has just told this woman she has been married five times and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. From this she concludes that he must be “a prophet” (verse 19), and she then brings up the subject of worship. It is critical to understand here what she means by “worship”, for it establishes the context for Jesus response to her. The two competing places of worship were two places where sacrifices were offered for the sins of the people, and worship here means to offer sacrifices to atone for sin. In verse 21, Jesus responds to her, but He does so by telling her that a time is shortly coming when the place of worship (sacrifice) will not matter. A “new” sacrifice is coming, and Jesus is it. There will be no more animal sacrifices, for the coming sacrifice will be in one place and only one time, and atone for sin once and for all (Hebrews 9:26). Both Jew and Samaritan expected Messiah to bring salvation, but He would not bring it as a prophet who would explain it or a conquering king who would obtain it by force, but as the suffering servant (Isaiah 53), as the lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus then tells her, in verse 23-24, that from that point forward, worship would take on a new and different form, that the Father no longer would seek animal sacrifices, but would seek a new kind of “sacrifice”. Worship would now be in “spirit and truth”, that this is the kind of worship which the Father now seeks. So what does it mean to worship in spirit and truth? Remember the context of “worship” here, that it is talking about sacrifice, and our sacrifice is now to be “in truth”. The word truth here means “that which is in accordance with reality”, and the reality is that there are no more animal sacrifices, that the sacrifice is now different, and our “sacrifices” (worship) must be in accordance with what that new form of sacrifice actually is. So what kind of sacrifice is it that the Father now seeks? He seeks sacrifices (worship) that are “in spirit”, this is the form of worship (sacrifice) which the Father now seeks. The form of worship which God requires has been transformed from the outward and physical to the inward and spiritual, we are no longer to sacrifice an animal, but to sacrifice something else. Jesus here defines worship in the context of sacrifice , that to truly worship God means to sacrifice something to Him, to offer something up to Him. This leaves unanswered the question of what it is we are to sacrifice, and our next post will turn to the Apostle Paul for an explanation of what it is we are to sacrifice and what this means in our lives, of how we are to worship God in spirit and truth, how we are to be the kind of worshippers God seeks.

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