Worshipping in Spirit and Truth
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
John 4:1-24
February 02, 2020

In our Gospel reading today from John chapter 4, Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman. We learn important things about Jesus. Jesus teaches important things about worship.

The story starts out telling us that Jesus is tired from His journey to Galilee from Judea. He is about halfway there. He is in Samaria. He stops to rest at Jacob’s well. He is thirsty (John 4:4-6).

This shows us that Jesus is a true human being like you and me—yet without sin. You and I get tired. He got tired. You and I get thirsty. He got thirsty. He takes a break at the side of the well. We need to take a break in our labors.

A Samaritan woman comes to the well. He asks her for a drink of water. A few moments later, Jesus reveals that He knows everything about this woman. He knows her as God knows her. He is human, tired and thirsty. He is all-knowing the way God knows. He knows everything about her. He is God. He is a true human being. He is true God by nature.

God’s Son enters into our labors and our weariness. Yet, He is present with us there as God. And in our lives here, He gives us living water. He gives the water that our thirsty souls need that never gives out, that can never be consumed. He gives the Holy Spirit, the love of God poured into our hearts, as the Apostle Paul says (Romans 5:5). The Spirit brings Christ as redeemer into our hearts. He brings faith in the forgiveness of sins into our hearts. The Spirit is the spring that wells up in us to eternal life.

Jesus began a conversation with the woman. Give me a drink. She is surprised that He is asking her for a drink, because Jews despised Samaritans and had no dealings with them, and vice-versa. Later, the disciples are surprised when they saw Jesus talking to a woman. There was nothing inappropriate going on in Jesus doing so. Yet, He was not supposed to do that according to Jewish law.

Jesus is grace and mercy in action. He is God’s redeeming love. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him, even this Samaritan woman, will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). He met the woman. He meets us here; He meets us here in His Word. He meets us here as He gives us His body and blood in the Sacrament. He meets us here according to His promise, where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there. He is here with us. He gives us the living water here, as He comes to us to forgive, to comfort, to promise, to strengthen our faith in Him.

In the conversation, Jesus says to the woman: “Go call your husband.”

She answers, “I have no husband.”

Is she telling the truth? Is she evading?

She is not telling the whole truth. She avoids coming to terms with the truth by telling a half-truth.

Jesus leads her to honesty, but gently. He does not berate her, “chew her out,” for not being fully honest, though He certainly could have. He knows that she has spoken a half-truth, but He graciously commends her for the truth she spoke.

He tells her the truth about herself: “You have had five husbands. And the man you are now living with is not your husband.” At least in that, you have spoken truthfully” (John 4:18). “But what you were trying to hide I also know.”

We can’t hide from God and Jesus. He knows it all. Let us be honest with Him. He will not cast us out, as Jesus’s conversation with the Samaritan woman shows.

“Aw,” she says, “I perceive that you are a prophet. She then opens the subject of worship.”

“We Samaritans insist that the true worship of God must take place on this mountain in Samaria,” she says. She is talking about Mt. Gerizim. She goes on to say that you Jews—she is speaking to Jesus—you Jews, however, insist that it is in Jerusalem that one must truly worship God.

In response, Jesus teaches us an important thing about worship: “A time is coming, and now is, when true worshippers of the Father, will not worship on Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem. But they will worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:21, 22).

Jesus says that the time is coming and now is. What does this “now” mean? It means that Messiah has come. The time of fulfillment of the Old has come. And to the woman, He says, I am standing right in front of you talking to you (John 4:26).

The worship in the temples either on Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem passes away because the true temple of God has come. The prescribed worship with sacrifices passes away because the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world has come.

The true temple has come. This temple is Jesus. The fullness of God dwells in Him (Colossians 19). The temple is the people who trust in Jesus and become His body. Jesus is now where true worship of God takes place. It does not take place on Mt. Gerizim, according to any temple and any sacrifices and rituals that took place there. It does not happen in Jerusalem, with any sacrifices and rituals that took place there. Jesus is the real deal. Worship of God means to latch on to Jesus. The worship of Jesus He speaks of is faith in Him.

Worship is faith in Jesus because true worship is in spirit, He says (John 4:24). Jesus speaks often of the Holy Spirit in John’s gospel. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus and leads our hearts to faith in Him (John 16:14; Romans 8:16). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). It cannot be possible in John’s Gospel to speak of worshipping in spirit without connecting this directly to the Holy Spirit. And if we connect this to the Holy Spirit, then we must speak of faith in Jesus.

And what about truth (John 4:24)? It is significant to think of truth in relation to the Samaritan woman’s attempts to avoid the truth with Jesus. True worship, however, is in truth.

This is Truth about ourselves in light of God’s word. It is truth about the redemption that God has placed before us in Jesus. This is truth about God’s love and grace: “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

But how could this be true worship, we might ask? It is because there can be no higher honoring of God, no greater acknowledgement of God and godly respect of Him, than to entrust oneself entirely to His mercy, grace, and salvation that He has provided in His Son. For God so loved the world, that He gave His Son (John 3:16). There could be no greater glory that we could ascribe to God than to confess and believe that we belong to Him because He has fully accomplished our redemption in His Son. There can be no greater thanksgiving than to thank Him for the eternal gift of His Son. There can be no greater humility than to bow the knees of our hearts at the nail-pierced feet of Jesus with trusting and thankful hearts. There can be no greater ascription of praise than to fill our voice and ritual and song with what God has done for us in Jesus.

 We have this comfort and joy today. We are worshipping in spirit and truth, as we are honest with God and Christ about our sins, but then also as we hear the word of forgiveness in Christ, and receive forgiveness in eating and drinking His body and blood in the Sacrament in faith, as our hearts say “amen,” and thank you, and believe, I am truly forgiven. In this, you are worshipping in spirit and truth. And your soul is being refreshed by the living water Jesus gives. And as He promises, this living water springs up in you unto eternal life (John 4:14). Thanks be to God for His eternal gift. Amen.


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