The true worshippers will worship the Father with spirit and truth (John 4:7–26)
“A woman of Sa·marʹi·a came to draw water. Jesus said to her: “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone off into the city to buy food.) 9 So the Sa·marʹi·tan woman said to him: “How is it that you, despite being a Jew, ask me for a drink even though I am a Sa·marʹi·tan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Sa·marʹi·tans.) 10 In answer Jesus said to her: “If you had known of the free gift of God and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 She said to him: “Sir, you do not even have a bucket for drawing water, and the well is deep. From what source, then, do you have this living water? 12 You are not greater than our forefather Jacob, who gave us the well and who together with his sons and his cattle drank out of it, are you?” 13 In answer Jesus said to her: “Everyone drinking from this water will get thirsty again. 14 Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty at all, but the water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.” 15 The woman said to him: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may neither thirst nor keep coming over to this place to draw water.” 16 He said to her: “Go, call your husband and come to this place.” 17 The woman replied: “I do not have a husband.” Jesus said to her: “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ 18 For you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. This you have said truthfully.” 19 The woman said to him: “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our forefathers worshipped on this mountain, but you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where people must worship.” 21 Jesus said to her: “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation begins with the Jews. 23 Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshippers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for indeed, the Father is looking for ones like these to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit, and those worshipping him must worship with spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him: “I know that Mes·siʹah is coming, who is called Christ. Whenever that one comes, he will declare all things to us openly.” 26 Jesus said to her: “I am he, the one speaking to you” (John 4:7–26. For the study of this text, the numbers marking the verses were voluntarily left).
To have a more precise idea of what can be said in the context of preaching, let us see how Jesus Christ informally preached to a Samaritan woman:
- Jesus Christ aroused an unusual double situation (verses 7–9): He was Jewish and spoke in public to a Samaritan woman. Jews and Samaritans hated each other so much that at the time, to insult one of their compatriot, they sometimes called him a “Samaritan” (see John 8:48, it is interesting to note that the illustration of “Good Samaritan”, clearly fits in Christ’s purpose, to subtly denounce this anti-Samaritan Jewish religious racism (Luke 10:25–37)). Moreover, Jesus Christ spoke in public to a woman, which was not the uses. In John 4:27, it is written that even his disciples were astonished at this situation. Be that as it may, in verse 16, Jesus Christ asked the woman to bring her husband for to continue the conversation. While Jesus Christ always had a chaste attitude towards women, he respected the customs regarding the relationship between men and women, and of course, of biblical morals.
Therefore, it is important not to have prejudices on the people to whom we are preaching the Good News. Jehovah God and Jesus Christ love all peoples and humans of all races, both men and women (Acts 10:34 “God is not partial”).
- Jesus Christ continued after the first surprise effect, adding something strange (verses 10–15): He can give her water, while he has no bucket (verse 10) . Of course, it was a spiritual way. Without necessarily thinking that the Samaritan woman lacked shrewdness, because she did not know that he was Jesus Christ who spoke to her, she pointed out to him that he had no bucket. Nevertheless, without pointing her the lack of discernment, Jesus Christ added a third surprising idea, completely aberrant from a human point of view: he can give her water which she will not be thirsty anymore. One can easily imagine the Samaritan woman looking at Jesus Christ, wide-eyed replying: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may neither thirst nor keep coming over to this place to draw water”. Clearly, the woman had not yet understood that Jesus Christ was speaking symbolically. He did not point out to her his lack of insight, because the goal he had set for himself was reached: to draw her attention.
First, to draw attention, use simple, (maybe, if possible) hard-hitting phrases that are out of the ordinary. It is necessary to arouse this innate curiosity to human beings, so that they can react and thus provoke spiritually interesting conversations. The second point is that Jesus Christ did not take back the Samaritan woman when she did not understand anything, he pursued his goal, he aroused her attention by creating a common ground between him and her.
- Jesus Christ refused to argue (Verse 20–22): The Samaritan woman opens a controversy over the different places of worship of Jews and Samaritans (verse 20). Jesus Christ did not enter into controversy by telling her that henceforth true worship would no longer depend on a particular holy place (verse 21). Having dismissed this pointless controversy, Jesus Christ nonetheless exposed the truth (Verse 22): “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation begins with the Jews”. Salvation comes from the Jews because from this people (and not from the Samaritan people) would come the main means of everlasting salvation: Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
It is important to balance the fact of avoiding unnecessarily entering into pointless controversy, but also of the absolute necessity of exposing the biblical truth, as did Jesus Christ in this case.
- Jesus Christ spoke of “true worshipers” (Verses 23 and 24): The expression “true worshipers” has the advantage of its great simplicity: either we are, or we are not. Just as Jesus Christ said, there are only two alternatives, one that leads to life and the other to destruction (Matthew 7:13,14,21–23). Likewise, there are only two categories of worshipers: the true and the false. The true worshipers have been appointed by divine providence: Christians: “After he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year they assembled with them in the congregation and taught quite a crowd, and it was first in Antioch that the disciples were by divine providence called Christians” (Acts 11:26). It is shortly before the Great Tribulation that Jesus Christ will make the difference between “true Christians” and “false Christians” (Matthew 7:21–23). Which means that if one were to replace the word “worshippers” or “to worship” with the non-biblical words “religion” or “religious”, the situation will become (and it is) more complex: Indeed, how to recognize the “true religion” “among the millions of other religions that all call themselves “true”? It is better to remain on the simplicity of the term “true worshipers”, used by Christ, or “Christian” used in the biblical book Acts (by divine providence). Clearly, Jesus Christ preached a message, the good news, rather than a “religion” (non-biblical generic word).
On the other hand, Jesus Christ has shown that his “Father is looking for ones like these to worship him”, by means of human preaching, He is the One who is building up His Own People: “At that time those who fear Jehovah spoke with one another, each one with his companion, and Jehovah kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance was written before him for those fearing Jehovah and for those meditating on his name” (Matthew 24:14, Malachi 3:16). Let us preach to the future great crowd that will survive to the great tribulation, the Day of Jehovah (Joel 2:1,2).
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