John 4:15-18 (NIV) 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
Verses 15-18: The Samaritan woman’s curiosity for the living water Jesus offers turns into a real desire for it. She asks Jesus for this living water, but Jesus responds by saying “Go, call your husband and come back.” Why does Jesus do that? It’s because Jesus knew that this woman had been in a handful of failed marriages, and now she was living with someone she was not married to. Subtly Jesus was telling the woman that in order to experience the living water that Jesus makes available, she needed to repent of sin.
What does it mean to repent? To repent means to agree with God that you have sinned, to feel sincerely sorry for your sin, and to turn away from sin and toward Jesus for forgiveness and help.
Why is repentance necessary to receive Jesus’ living water? It’s because the first step to being reconciled to God and receiving His forgiveness and grace is realizing that we actually need His forgiveness and grace. When we repent, we’re giving God room to forgive us, to fill us and to do a new work in us. That is why we need to repent if we want to experience Jesus’ living water.
John 4:19-24 (NIV) 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
On verses 19 to 24: Now that Jesus a perfect stranger — indeed, THE perfect stranger — has revealed that he knows this woman’s specific and secret struggle with sin, this woman realizes that he is a prophet. Then notice what she does. Instead of repenting of sin, she immediately changes the direction of the conversation to a “safer” topic by talking about how Jews and Samaritans can’t agree on where to worship (v20). Sometimes when a sinner is faced with the call to repent, or gets anywhere near anything God-related, they will, as a defensive mechanism, bring up topics of controversy, debate and intellectual objections to faith, so as to avoid having to think about personally needing to make any God-motivated change in their lives.
That is what the woman does here. She brings up the “worship wars” between the Jews and the Samaritans so as to avoid talking about her own need to repent. But Jesus deals with her diversion so well. He answers her objection by saying that the physical location where we worship is not what’s most important as the condition of our hearts when we worship. Whereas the Samaritan and Jewish fathers focused on the location of worship (whether on the mountain or in Jerusalem), the Father focuses on the condition of our hearts in worship. As Jesus says, the time has now come where the Father seeks people who will worship Him “in Spirit and in truth” (v21, 23-24), for that is the kind of worshiper the Father seeks (v23). As part of this, Jesus also says that what she and her Samaritan people needed was something that God had given the Jews, namely, the key to salvation (v22).
What does it mean to worship God “in spirit and in truth”?
– To worship “in spirit” means that more than just showing up at church, you’re using your spirit to worship God. Just as God is Spirit, we have been created as spiritual beings, having been given a spirit with which to worship God and to relate to God. Worship is a spirit to Spirit activity where our spirit interacts with God’s Spirit. So to “worship in spirit” carries with it the idea that we are worshiping with a sensitivity to what God’s Spirit is doing and relying on God’s Spirit to lead us in worshiping the Father.
– To worship “in truth” means to worship God with an understanding of who He really is. In particular, since Jesus later calls Himself “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), to “worship in truth” can also mean to worship God in Jesus Christ, believing in Jesus, appreciating what Jesus has done for us, and trusting that it is only through Jesus that we can connect with God.
– Notice that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all appear in Jesus’ statement that the Father seeks worshipers who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth, since “Spirit” can refer to the Holy Spirit and “truth” can be a reference to Jesus. When we worship God in spirit and in truth, all three Persons of the Trinity are involved in that activity.
John 4:25-30 (NIV) 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” 27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
On verses 25-30: The woman responds to Jesus’ teaching on worship by saying, “Well, I guess we’ll only know for sure when the Messiah comes” (v25). Jesus responds by saying, “You’re looking at Him” (v26). The disciples return, puzzled as to why Jesus is talking with a woman, and the woman goes back to the town and invites the people to come check out this Jesus that she just met and whom she thinks may be the Messiah (the Christ) they have all been waiting for.
What can we learn from this? This woman had literally just met Jesus, but within minutes of meeting Jesus, she started to “live out loud” and lead others to Jesus. It goes to show that you don’t need to be well versed in the Bible and you don’t need to have known Jesus for a long time before you start leading others to Him. All you need to do is share with others what good thing you think you’ve experienced from Jesus and invite people to come check Him out with you.
Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me through Your Word today that repentance is a crucial step to receiving Your living water. Since the Father is seeking worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth, I pray I would be one of those worshipers, who recognizes who You are and who I am in light of who You are. Thank You that now and today, despite everything I don’t know, You can use me to lead others to You. Please fill me with Your Spirit today, that I would worship You in spirit and in truth. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!