John – “But Who Do You Say That I Am?” – John 4:19-24

If you have your Bible handy, open it up to John, Chapter 4. This will be the first of two more posts regarding Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well who is simply referred to in Scripture as “The Woman at the Well” because we don’t know her name. It’s not important but her encounter with our Lord is very important. In this post, we are going to look at 5 verses briefly covered in the last post but these will be looked at in greater detail and then in the next post, we’ll finish out this remarkable, life changing encounter that this woman has with Jesus. 

Tell me if this has ever happened to you. It happens to most people at some point who work. It actually happened to me a few weeks back at my job. You are scheduled to work but something comes up. You may be sick or a family emergency or you simply just want to play “hooky”! LOL! By the way, the latter not being the case with me a few weeks back! Anyway, you make arrangements with a co-worker who isn’t scheduled to work that day or doesn’t mind working an extra shift, to cover you for the day. In my case, it was done through my boss who found someone to cover the shift that I had requested to be covered. You tell your co-worker who is covering for you, “Oh thank you and if you ever need me to cover for you sometime, just let me know!”. Then comes the time when you have to “pay the piper” so to speak, where your co-worker comes to you and expects you to honor your commitment! LOL! Doesn’t it always seem like it comes at a time when you have other plans that day or simply at a bad time?! LOL! So now you begin to find ways to back out of that commitment you made! By the way, in case you are wondering, I honored my commitment with my boss by working a few days later on a day that I was supposed to be off. Anyway, why am I bringing this up and what in the world does this have to do with this study? It has to do with not being authentic, not being truthful, deceitful. We’re saying something and making a promise that we really don’t mean to keep! 

Christians can be this way when it comes to worship. We know and recite Bible verses. oh we sing and raise up our hands and claim that we love Jesus but deep down, it’s just a ruse because we are more committed and rooted to things in this world! We are not being authentic or truthful. We are being deceitful. We claim to serve the kingdom of God but in reality, we serve to further our own kingdoms and this is what Jesus is calling out and we’ll also be looking at what worship is and what it isn’t in these verses that we will be looking at in this post. Only 5 verses but a lot of ground to cover so let’s get started. As always, the text link for the chapter and the audio are included so you can follow along but as always, before we get started, let’s pray…

Father, 

Thank You for Your Word and thank You for allowing us to be free to live in a country, or in countries, where we can read and study and meditate on Your Word. Father, as we open up Your Word and look at these four verses, help us learn and help clear up any confusion that we may have about what it truly means to worship You. We put away all distractions now Father and our hearts and minds are open to hear what You have to say. Speak Lord for Your servants are listening! In the saving name of Jesus we pray…Amen!

John 4

Let’s take a look at the passage we’ll be studying in this post. We’ll be focusing on verses 19 through 24 but for context purposes, let’s go back up a few verses to verse 13…

(13) Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, (14) but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (15) The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” (16) Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” (17) The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ (18) for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” (19) The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. (20) Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” (21) Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. (22) You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. (23) But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. (24) God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” … John 4:13-24 NKJV

We’ve already covered the fact that this Samaritan woman doesn’t have a clue to what Jesus is referring to when He talks to her about this water that will never make her thirst again. She thinks that Jesus is actually talking about actual water and she is basically telling Him, “Hey I’m thirsty! I want to know where I can find this water! Where’s the well? Show me where it is!”. So now Jesus turns the focus on this woman’s real issue…her sin. He tells her, “Go call your husband” and she replies, probably sarcastically, “I have no husband“. Jesus then replies to her, and I’m paraphrasing here, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband because you’ve had five of them! And to top it off, you’re living with a man right now that isn’t your husband!”. So now to verse 19…

vv 19-20 –  (19) The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. (20) Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

As I pointed out in the last post, the first thing we do when hit with something that convicts us is deflection. In other words, we try to change the subject. If I have a customer who is an unbeliever, they will do something, anything, to change the subject if I say anything or they hear anything remotely related to God or Jesus. Most of them will get on their cell phones and then I just drop the subject because there’s no use wasting time trying to share the Gospel with them further. Here with the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus, she is basically trying to do the same thing…trying to change the subject. She is using a deflection tactic because she has been hit with conviction but there’s something else that is going on here too. She’s beginning to realize that this person that she is talking to is not an ordinary man! She is thinking to herself, “He knows everything about me! How does He know these things? He must be a prophet!” and she tells Jesus so in verse 19. The woman may be trying to change the subject but in verse 20, there is probably some confusion that the woman has regarding worship. She makes the comment, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” In the last post, I outlined why the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans so I’m not going to rehash that again. The mountain that the woman is referring to is Mt Gerizim. There is some history regarding this mountain. As I pointed out, the Samaritans were half breeds and not considered true Hebrews. They interbreeded with outside races which brought idolatry and paganism into their worship system. When the Jews came back from captivity, they began rebuilding the wall and temple in Jerusalem and the people from Samaria wanted to help but were denied because of their perverted worship system. The Samaritans in retaliation tried to stop the building of the temple and the wall by first a letter and then an army. This retaliatory revolt was led by Sanballat. Turning to Nehemiah 4:2, we read…

But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. (2) And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” … Nehemiah 4:1-2 NKJV

When intimidation didn’t work, the Samaritans said we don’t need your temple and built their own which happened to be on Mt Gerizim. It was built by Sanballat in case you didn’t know. The temple was destroyed around 129 BC by the Maccabean ruler John Hercanus. Mt Gerizim is the mountain where the blessings were shouted from in Deuteronomy 27  was also the mountain that the Samaritans believed to be the mountain that Abraham took his son Isaac to be sacrificed on which is told in Genesis 22 and not Mt Moriah. So at the time Jesus shows up in Samaria, this temple is gone but sacrifices were still made on Mt Gerizim and Passover was celebrated there as well and still is to this day actually. So this woman has some confusion. Where is the proper place to worship? Is it in Jerusalem or Mt Gerizim? Other reasons why she is confused is because of her sinful past and also her upbringing. These things can also shape our belief system. One last thing before moving on. When we are faced with something that makes us feel uncomfortable in our lives, the idea is not to run from it or change the subject. The idea is to confront it and deal with it! Moving on now…

vv 21-22 – (21) Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. (22) You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.

Jesus tells the woman, and us here in verse 21, that the place of worship is not important. What is important is who we are worshiping. I grew up in a Catholic household and it was mandatory that we all went to church on Sundays. There was just no ifs, ands, or buts about it. It was like going to church was the way to make God happy and worship Him in my parents eyes. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying don’t go to church. I believe everyone should go. Sometimes though, especially in this day and age in our society and culture, you can’t go because of work or other legitimate reasons. Going to church is not the only way to worship God. We can worship Him in our homes, in our schools, and on our jobs. We worship Him by the way we lead our every day lives. That’s the way to worship God! The building or location is not important…the Person is! In Acts 7, Stephen addressing the Jewish council says…

(48) “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: (49) ‘HEAVEN IS MY THRONE, AND EARTH IS MY FOOTSTOOL. WHAT HOUSE WILL YOU BUILD FOR ME? SAYS THE LORD, OR WHAT IS THE PLACE OF MY REST? (50) HAS MY HAND NOT MADE ALL THESE THINGS?’ … Acts 7:48-50 NKJV

Paul reemphasizes this further in Acts 17 when he is addressing the Areopagus in Athens…

(24) God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. (25) Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. … Acts 17:24-25 NKJV

Tell me if this has ever happened to you. It’s happened in almost every church I’ve ever walked into. You walk in and scout out a good place to sit. You walk over and sit down and then someone shows up and gives you a look like, “That’s my seat that you’re sitting in!”. Sometimes, they will even say it! They say to you, “That’s the place where God speaks to me!”. Really?! If that’s the only place where God speaks to you, maybe you’re worshiping the wrong god! LOL! God speaks to me every day everywhere I go and in everything I do not just in church and the way He speaks to me, and all of us for that matter, is through His written Word…The Bible. God is not confined to a building, a seat, or a pilgrimage. In Jeremiah, it says…

“Am I a God near at hand,” says the LORD, “And not a God afar off? … Jeremiah 23:23 NKJV

The Samaritans had many paganistic systems of worship and Jesus is condemning this in verse 21. She was worshiping, and the rest of the Samaritans for that matter, what they didn’t know. Their worship of God was confusing, twisted, and perverted much like Christianity has turned into today with the numerous denominations and their doctrines. It is no wonder that so many people turn from Christ with all the do this and don’t do thats of legalism and the political correctness that has crept into the worship of God. The latter may be drawing people to Christ but for the wrong reasons and certainly not to the Christ of The Bible because not all roads lead to heaven! Jesus tells the woman, we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. What Jesus is telling the woman is that the Jews were chosen by God to be His messengers. A lot of people have this misconception of the phrase chosen people when referring to the Jews. If you think that the phrase chosen people means that God highly favors them, think again! Look at their history. It’s hardly favorable. What that phrase really means is that God would use the Jews and the Jewish nation to show the rest of us how He would judge the other nations and its people. Honor God and follow His commandments, they would be blessed. Don’t honor God and follow His commandments, they would face God’s wrath and harsh judgement. This is why Israel is the center of the world and no other nation because everything begins and ends there. It is also through the Jewish nation that the Messiah would emerge. Jesus eludes to this here as the passage continues…

vv 23-24 – (23) But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. (24) God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus now tells the woman in verse 23; but the hour is coming, and now is; that He is the fulfillment of the New Covenant. In Jeremiah, God tells Jeremiah…

(31) “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— (32) not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. (33) But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (34) No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” … Jeremiah 31:31-34 NKJV

The worship of God would no longer be confined to a temple with countless sacrifices of animals made by priests. Now true believers would be able to worship God  in spirit and truth. Because of the Jewish people rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, this covenant now applies to everyone who accepts Jesus and not just Jews. But this is conditional because we must worship in spirit and truth. What does this mean? It means with sincerity and from our hearts without deception. In other words, don’t fake it. There is a quote that I have heard and maybe you have heard it too. It was made by Gordon Dahl and he said…

“Most middle class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship. 

For most Christians in America, Jesus is only given “face time” on Sundays for a couple of hours, on holidays such as Christmas and Easter, and maybe for a couple of hours on Wednesdays. The rest of the week and time is ours to do what we want to do and we don’t want to even hear the words Jesus or God! I find it absolutely amazing how Biblically illiterate most Christians are in our country given the advances in technology that we have today. There are smart phones, computers, i-phones, tablets, i-pads, i-pods, laptops etcetera, all of which people can download Bibles and commentaries onto them and read them in their spare time and hardly any of us do! I deal with thousands of customers a year on my job and some, actually most, claim to be believers of Jesus Christ but you would hardly know it by talking to some of them. They claim to be believers but when I dig a little deeper into spiritual matters while conversing with them, it becomes quite obvious that they really aren’t very well spiritually educated. They are more interested in the things of this world such as football games or basketball games and try to steer me onto those subjects (and find me quite an oddball when I tell them that I have next to no interest in those sports! LOL!), their work, or other worldly pursuits. Another thing with many believers is they have a much more different viewpoint of who Jesus Christ is! Here’s something I did a few years back when I first started working as a shoeshiner at the airport. The first company that I worked for, we were required to have some type of reading material at our stands so our customers could read something while we were shining their shoes or boots like a newspaper or magazine. Along with the newspaper (which hardly anyone ever picked up to read by the way), I had a copy of  The Bible sitting in plain view. I had the page bookmarked and the passage from Romans, Romans 10:9-10, highlighted in it. The idea was so customers, who may not be believers, would pick it up and read it. It was my way of evangelism. Anyway, I did this for quite sometime almost a year. Of all the so called believers, only one guy, just one out of all the people who were customers at my stand that claimed to be believers in Jesus Christ, only one actually picked up The Bible and read it! That told me something. It’s no wonder why Christians are swayed by every false doctrine that comes their way because they are not firmly grounded in the Word of God! I’m not saying that we have to spend every moment of our free time with our noses in a Bible but as believers, we need to set aside some time out of our day to spend time in God’s Word and prayer. If we did, then we would come to the realization that there is more to the Word of God than John 3:16! 

In the last part of verse 23, Jesus says for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. This is what God really wants…followers who worship in spirit and truth…authentic worshipers! I came upon this while reading a commentary on the Book of James from William MacDonald’s “Believer’s Bible Commentary”. In it, he writes…

“Any behavior inconsistent with the Christian faith is worthless. The story is told of a grocer who apparently was a pious fraud. He lived in an apartment above his store. Every morning he would call down to his assistant, “John!”
“Yes, sir.”
“Have you watered down the milk?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Have you colored the butter?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Have you put chicory in the coffee?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Very well. Come up for morning “devotions!”
James says that such religion is useless. What God is looking for is the practical type of godliness which takes a compassionate interest in others and keeps one’s own life clean.”—-William MacDonald —-Believer’s Bible Commentary

Some Scriptural examples to back this up in worshiping in spirit and truth, in Malachi 1:6-8…

(6) “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ (7) “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’ (8) And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts. … Malachi 1:6-8 NKJV

And continuing in Malachi 1:12-13…

(12) “But you profane it, In that you say, ‘The table of the LORD is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ (13) You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the LORD of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the LORD. … Malachi 1:12-13 NKJV

In verse 24, Jesus tells the woman that, God is Spirit. This means again that God is not confined to a building or a certain place. He is everywhere and because He is everywhere, common sense should tell you that He knows everything which means, everything you do and why you do it! You can’t pull the wool over God’s eyes! In Galatians, Paul says…

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. … Galatians 6:7 NKJV

Jesus then wraps up the rest of verse 24 by re-emphasizing the end of verse 23 those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth

In closing, there are many confusing worship systems out there. The worship of Jesus Christ is not confusing though. There are only three things that you have to do and they are summed up this way…acknowledge, accept, and repent. Acknowledge that you are a sinner. Accept Jesus Christ into your heart and your life. Repent, turn, from your sin and your past life. That’s it! There’s no need to go through a bunch of rituals because Jesus Christ’s death on the cross cleared the way for us to come to God through Him but it must be true and sincere worship. God is seeking such to worship Him. God loves the adoration of His people. We have to ask ourselves is He receiving that from us? Let’s pray…

Father,

Thank You for the Word of God that does the work of God in the hearts of those of us who worship You in spirit and truth. Help us Lord to strengthen our resolve to worship You in spirit and truth not just once or twice a week in a special building but in our homes, on our jobs, in our schools and then help us to go out and find and convert others to do the same. Bless us Lord, bless our families, our communities and our nations wherever we may live. On this Easter weekend, we pray that more people would come to faith in Your Son Jesus Christ and we pray this in His name…Amen!

Happy Easter everyone and God bless you and your families!