Worship in Spirit

To the woman in Samaria, Jesus of Nazareth revealed the proper form and location for worshipping the Father. With the advent of the Messiah, concepts and traditions about holy space and holy time became irrelevant, and his presence rendered the historical debate over the location of the Temple moot. From now on, worship must be performed in truth and spirit.

Even at this early stage in his ministry, Jesus experienced opposition from the Temple authorities, and quite possibly, this was why he left Judea for Galilee, perhaps seeking more receptive hearts.

Worship - Photo by Aliane Schwartzhaupt on Unsplash
[Worship - Photo by Aliane Schwartzhaupt on Unsplash]

The most direct route to Galilee was through 
Samaria, a region many more scrupulous Jews avoided by taking a more circuitous route - (John 4:1-3).

  • (John 4:20-22) – “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.

On the way, he encountered a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and asked her for a drink of water. This surprised her since devout Jews avoided contact with Samaritans, and it was socially awkward for a Jewish male to communicate with an unrelated and unaccompanied female. But he 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.”

The woman then assumed he meant water and asked how he could draw from the well without a vessel. She then asked, “Are you greater than Jacob who gave us the well?” Jesus responded again:

  • 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 instinctively asked 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.”

The woman then perceived that he was a prophet and asked about the old dispute between the Jews and Samaritans - “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you say that in Jerusalem is the place necessary to worship!”

The Samaritans also worshipped the God of Israel, but unlike the Jews, they recognized only the five books of Moses as Scripture, and they disagreed with them about the proper location for the Temple of Yahweh.


Moses directed Israel to worship at the place that Yahweh would designate, but he did not specify where that was. Because the Jews accepted the rest of the Old Testament, they assumed the correct site was Jerusalem based on numerous passages from the later books of the Hebrew Bible.

The Samaritans argued in favor of Mount Gerizim in Samaria for the location of the Temple, and they pointed for scriptural authorization to the Book of Genesis where God promised to give Shechem, the city of Samaria, to Abraham and his “seed” – (Genesis 12:6-7, 1 Kings 12:25). But Jesus responded with a most unexpected declaration:

  • 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 these is the Father seeking as his worshipers. God is spirit; they that worship him must WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH” - (John 4:23-24).

He did not attempt to resolve the old festering dispute. Instead, he described the NEW ORDER OF WORSHIP established by him, one in which questions about holy sites and times were (and are) pointless. His words indicated the obsolescence of the old Temple and religious concerns concerning holy space.

Rather than the dried-up rituals of worship in man-made structures and regulations, Jesus now offers his followers an endless supply of “living waters.”

What mattered is not where God’s people worship Him, BUT HOW - (“An hour is coming and now is”). The people of God must worship him as Father by means of Spirit and Truth. Likewise, the division between the Jews and Samaritans had reached its termination point, at least for followers of Jesus.

The declaration that the time “NOW IS” meant the old order was passing away in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. As elsewhere in John’s gospel, the term “hour” refers to his death, the “HOUR” of his “glorification.” He was ushering in a new era where external rituals would be replaced by spiritual worship - (John 7:37-39).

With his death and resurrection, traditional regulations based on space and time are now irrelevant. The presence of Yahweh cannot be limited to buildings, geographic locations, or specific “seasons” of the year. Jesus is the true Temple where God is worshiped and His presence dwells.

The “Son of Man,” the “Word made flesh,” is the true tabernacle in which the glory of God is manifested, and he is the means of access between Heaven and Earth. He is the true Temple raised up by God “after three days” - (John 1:14, 1:47-51, 2:17-22).

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