Well, Well, Well, Look What We Have Here: A Marriage, A Mountain, and a Messiah (pt. 1) —A Sermon on John 4:16–26
Where do you worship? And why? Does the location of your worship matter? Or is it a matter totally inconsequential? When you worship, are you intentionally addressing the Father, the Son, and the Spirit? Or can you simply focus on God? Moreover, are you satisfied to worship alone? Or do you need—are you required—to worship with others?
The more you think about worship, the more you realize how much goes into answering questions about true worship. And the more you let Scripture speak to you on these matters, the more you realize how clearly Scripture says about how, who, and where you worship. You may also realize how much the church has not spoken clearly about worship.
In Scripture, there is a sense in which we worship everywhere we go. As Romans 12:1–2 says, we are living sacrifices who can and should worship God at all times and in all places. Yet, this everywhere-ness of worship is not something that ancient Israelites, living under the old covenant, would have understood. And maybe it is something that our place-less society needs to recover. For just because Christians do not need to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land, does not mean place is unimportant.
Indeed, prior to Pentecost worship was always conducted on or at a mountain. Such worship may have been true or false, pure or defiled, but worship had a place. And more than a place, worship had a people. In all of the Old Testament (and the New), worship was never an individual affair; it was always shared with other members of the covenant community. Knowing these facts helps us appreciate what is happening in John 4.
When Jesus met the woman at the well, he was not simply having a personal conversation. The discussion concerned the Samaritans and the Jews, as two different peoples who worshiped in two different places—Jerusalem vs. Mount Gerizim. Accordingly, when the conversation moved living water, to mountains, to prophets, to worship, it was not postmodern dialogue with no main point. Just the opposite—all of those features flowed into the same discussion about true worship.
Lest we think that the woman sought to sidetrack Jesus in her mentions of prophets, mountains, or worship, I believe the whole discussion—the whole reason Jesus came to Samaria—was intended to expose the false worship of Samaria. In order to save the Samaritans as a whole(v. 42), he met the woman and asked for her husband. Jesus was coming to liberate the Samaritans from their idols, and it started with the woman at the well.
Though, we often identify Jesus’s mission individually and treat the woman immorally. There is more going on in John 4. And what is going on is related to worship and to all of us who have worshiped false gods. Indeed, because none of us have rightly worshiped God, we all need John 4 to show us how to worship God truly. And wonderfully, this is why Jesus came and why he and the Father would send the Spirit—to that the Father could seek (and make) true worshipers.
On Sunday, I preached on John 4:16–26 and the worship debate between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. If you want to know more of about worship, God’s plan of salvation for the Jews, the Samaritans, and the world, or if want to know why I don’t think the Samaritan woman should be charged with adultery, you should listen to this sermon. You can also find a few helps on John 2–4 here. And if you are looking for a church home and you live in Northern Virginia, come visit us this Sunday. Worship in person is always best, because that is what God always intended. Just consider John 4.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds