True Place of Worship

OVERVIEW - To the Samaritan woman, Jesus revealed that the presence of God is no longer limited to specific locations or man-made structuresJohn 4:20-24

Worship Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash
At the well in Samaria, Jesus revealed the proper form and location 
for the worship of the Father. With the advent of the Messiah, concepts about holy space and holy time would no longer apply. The arrival of the Son of Man rendered the historical debate over the location of the Temple moot. From now on, worship performed in truth and the spirit required no Temple building or rituals, and no designated holy space or time - [Worship - Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash].
  • (John 4:20-24) – “Our fathers in this mountain worshiped; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where we must worship. Jesus says to her: Believe me, woman! There is coming an hour when neither in this mountain nor yet in Jerusalem shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you know not. We worship that which we know, because salvation is of the Jews.
Even at this early point in his ministry, Jesus experienced opposition from the Temple authorities, which is, quite possibly, why he left Judea for Galilee where he did find more receptive crowds.  The most direct route there was through Samaritan territory, a region avoided by many Jews by taking a more circuitous route - (John 4:1-3).

On the way, he encountered the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and asked her for water. She was surprised since devout Jews avoided contact with Samaritans. Furthermore, it was socially awkward for a Jewish male to communicate with an unrelated female in public.

Jesus responded - “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is speaking to you, you would ask, and he would give you living water.”  She assumed he meant water and asked how he could draw any from the well with no vessel, and then asked him, “Are you greater than Jacob who gave us the well?” He responded:
  • Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again. Whosoever drinks of the water I will give will never thirst; in him, it will become a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.”
The woman then asked him for this “living water.” In turn, Jesus told her to “summon your husband.” She claimed to have no husband, but he retorted, “You have had five husbands and he whom you now have is not your husband; you have spoken truly.”

Samaritan woman at the well
The Samaritan woman perceived him to be a prophet, and therefore, asked him about the old dispute between Jews and Samaritans - “
Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you say that in Jerusalem is the place necessary to worship!” The Samaritans also worshiped the God of Israel, but, unlike the Jews, they recognized only the five books of Moses as Scripture, and they disagreed with them over the proper location of the Temple.

Moses directed Israel to worship Yahweh at the place He would designate, but he did not specify its location. Because the Jews accepted the rest of the Old Testament, they assumed the correct site was Jerusalem. The Samaritans argued in favor of Mount Gerizim in Samaria, pointing for scriptural authorization to the Book of Genesis:
  • (Genesis 12:6-7) - “Abram passed through the land unto the place of Shechem, unto the oak of Moreh... And Yahweh appeared to Abram and said: To your seed will I give this land, and there built he an altar for Yahweh.”
Jesus responded to her question with a most unexpected declaration:
  • (John 4:23-24) - “There is coming an hour when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for even such as This is the Father seeking as his worshipers. God is spirit; they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
He did not attempt to resolve the ancient dispute. Instead, he described the new order of worship being established in him, one where questions about holy sites and space were pointless. His words indicated the obsolescence of the old Temple.

What mattered was not where God’s people worshiped, but how - (“An hour is coming and now is”). The people of God must now worship him as Father by means of spirit and truth. Likewise, the division between Jew and Samaritan had reached its termination point.

As elsewhere in John, “hour” referred to the death of Jesus, the “hour” of his “glorification.” He was ushering in a new reality in which external rituals would be replaced by spiritual worship:
  • (John 7:37-39) – “Now, on the last, the great day of the feast, Jesus was standing, and he cried aloud, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink: He that believes on me, just as said the Scripture, River from within him shall flow of living water. Now, this spoke he about the Spirit, which they who believed on him were about to receive; for, not yet, was the Spirit, because Jesus not yet was glorified!
With his Death and Resurrection, traditional restrictions and regulations based on holy space and time would become irrelevant. The presence of Yahweh could not be limited to buildings, geographic locations, or specific “seasons” of the year.  From then on, Jesus was the true “holy place” where God would be worshiped and His presence found.

The “Son of Man,” the “word made flesh,” is the true tabernacle where the glory of God is manifested for all to see, the means of access between heaven and earth, the true Temple raised up after three days - (John 1:14, 1:47-51, 2:17-22).


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