Letters to the Prison - Week 39

Hello!
We’re thankful to God for the salvation he brought to us through Jesus Christ.  We’re also thankful for your fellowship and for this opportunity to consider God’s word together even while we’re apart.

We’re looking at John chapter 4 and Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar.  Last week we saw how this woman recognized her need for a right relationship with God –one in which she worships God in the proper way and at the proper place (John 4:20).  And she’s confused about that because of the long history of hatred and strife between the Jews and the Samaritans.  But she recognizes that Jesus has the answer because he has shown her that he knew everything about her even before they met.  Look at what Jesus tells her:
•21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father…. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. -John 4:21, 23

Jesus says a lot here.  The short version is this:  If you’re a true worshipper, it doesn’t matter where you worship.  What matters is that you worship in spirit and truth.  What does that mean?  To worship “in spirit” means that worshipping God is a spiritual act.  Our spirit worships God (who also is a spirit –see verse 24) when we worship properly.  Such an act can look very different depending on who you are and where you are.  If you’re at a church with a bunch of other Christians, your spiritual act of worship might look like singing songs or praying out loud and studying God’s word together.  If you’re alone in your room, it might look like you’re sitting or kneeling there… silently in prayer or thinking about God’s word.  

But the opposite might be true, also.  Entire congregations often sit in silent prayer together while someone alone in their room might sing (and even dance) as an act of worship.  Some people hum worship tunes to themselves or pray in their minds throughout the day as they go about their routines.  True Christians worship God in many different ways.

What’s important, though, is that they worship in spirit… and in truth.  “In truth” means a couple of different things.  For one thing, if we don’t know the truth about God, we might not be worshipping God when we worship.  This is why we study the Bible –to better understand the truth about God so that when we worship him, we know who and what we are worshipping.  For another thing, there is a true way to worship God… and a false way.  This speaks to the condition of our hearts.  Why are we worshipping?  What do we want to accomplish by worshipping?  Are we singing praise to God because we want to?  Or because someone told us we have to?  If we’re given an opportunity to sing to God together, do we take it joyfully or do we have other things we’d rather be doing?  Do we pray to God to get something from him in return or are we expressing thanks for what we already have?

So, true worshippers know the truth about God.  They worship God wherever they are, and they worship him in spirit.  They worship God in true, sincere ways.  They’re not just “going through the motions” in order to look good to everyone else or paying God “lip service.”  Nor are they worshipping God in order to get something from him in return.

Jesus then says something else: “…the Father is seeking such people…”  This is a profound thing to say.  Why?  Well, if any of you has been reading ahead, or if you’ve read the book of John before, you might have seen what Jesus says in John 10:30:
•“I and the Father are one.”

So, Jesus, standing there at that well in Sychar with that woman was the Father.  So, it was Jesus seeking people to worship him in spirit and in truth.  The truth about God is that he himself came to save us.  Jesus is God.  That the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct from one another is true.  But that they are all one God is also true.  This is what Christians mean when they talk about the Trinity.  It is an amazing and difficult mystery to comprehend.  But here in John 4, we are catching a glimpse of it.  Look at what the Samaritan woman says next:
•25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”-John 4:25

This woman knows her Scriptures.  She knows that the Old Testament speaks of the Messiah –the “Anointed One”—whom she also knows as “the Christ.”  Look how Jesus responds:
•26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”-John 4:26

What Jesus says here about himself is astonishing and unmistakable.  He is clearly claiming to be the Messiah (the Christ) the Samaritan woman speaks of.  One very interesting thing to note here is that in the original Greek in which the book of John was written, the word “he” is not in verse 26.  So, what Jesus says to the Samaritan woman in this verse might literally read something like “I, who speak to you, AM” or “I AM, the One speaking to you.”  This is something God says about himself.  It goes all the way back to the days of Moses when he encountered God in the burning bush.  You can read about it in Exodus 3.

So, in this one statement, Jesus is claiming to be the Messiah predicted by the Old Testament –the same Messiah the Samaritan woman at the well is waiting for—and Jesus is also claiming to be God.  Of all the things Jesus says about himself, the claim to be God is the most important.  Which again raises the question:
Is Jesus who he says he is?  It’s a “yes” or “no” question everyone must answer for themselves.  It is a matter of belief and a matter of faith.  So, what do you think?  We hope your answer is “yes!”

Next week, we’ll look at how the Samaritan woman herself answers that question.  Until then, keep reading.  We love you!

Dean A.

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