The Woman at the Well (Part 3)
We closed yesterday with the woman at the well being surprised. First, she was surprised that Jesus, a Jew, asked her for a favor. Second, she was surprised at His knowledge of her personal life. He knew she had had five husbands and was now living with another man! She deduced that He must be a prophet and then proceeded to state - "'Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.' Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 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. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.' The woman said to Him, 'I know that Messiah is coming' (who is called Christ). 'When He comes, He will tell us all things.' Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am He'" (John 4:20-26).

This Samaritan woman, realizing she was in the presence of a prophet, and perhaps wanting to direct the conversation away from her personal life, asked Him for His view on the great dispute between the Jews and Samaritans; namely, where is the proper place for worship?

Throughout her life she had been taught that only on Mt. Gerizim would God accept worship. She and her fellow Samaritans worshipped there because their fathers did. The Jews, on the other hand, worshipped in Jerusalem, not because of tradition, but because it was ordained by God (cf. Deut. 12:5-14; I Kings 9:3; II Chr. 3:1). The Samaritans, not the Jews, were wrong in their contention.

Jesus used the word "hour" in John 4:21 to indicate that the time was near when religious distinctions regarding the place for worship would be abolished. Jesus could have closed the discussion here without really dealing with who was currently right. However, Jesus didn't avoid the issue; instead, He went on to explain why the difference existed.

The Samaritans had an imperfect knowledge of God and of worship. They accepted only the first five books of the Old Testament. Their rejection of the other books of history, wisdom, and prophecy, kept them from knowing many things about the nature of God and His will. They were in error regarding not only where to worship but also how to worship acceptably.

Jesus plainly affirmed in 4:22 that "salvation is of the Jews." The Christ came from the Jews, which was in accordance with prophecy. Jewish sacrifices anticipated Him, the prophets predicted His coming, and their land supplied the place of His birth. The Hebrew religion came from God; the Samaritan religion--although it was based somewhat on that which God had ordained--was of man and involved great error.

Jesus spoke more in 4:23,24 about the great religious changes that were soon to come. "True worshipers" are those who worship God sincerely and intelligently, as opposed to those who worship mechanically and ritualistically. True worship is directed toward the Father and is rendered "in spirit and truth"; that is, sincerely and in harmony with His word, which is truth (John 17:17). Only those who worship in this manner are "true worshipers". This verse implies that not all worship is pleasing to God. It is possible to worship God and yet be displeasing to Him if the worship is not offered "in spirit and truth" (cf. Matt. 15:7-9; Acts 17:23). Because God is a " Spirit", He is not bound by fleshly limitations. For this reason, He should not be regarded as restricted to mountains, temples, or holy shrines.

While the Samaritans did not accept as inspired the writings of the prophets, which so clearly foretold the coming Messiah, they did believe in a Savior, as alluded to in the books of Moses (cf. 4:25).

John 4:26 is the first recorded, and perhaps clearest, declaration made by Jesus concerning His identity. Simon Peter did not confess him as the Messiah until the last year of His ministry (Matt. 16:16). Why did Jesus speak so freely here? Perhaps there are a couple of reasons: (1) The Samaritans would make no effort to take Him by force and make Him a king (e.g., John 6:15) and (2) His short stay in Samaria justified an explicit and brief revelation.