19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 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. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:19-25 (ESV)
Jesus spells out the woman’s life story, five husbands now with another man who is not her husband. It is a painful story of love and betrayal, use and abuse. I’m sure it was a hard story. The woman obviously does not want to talk about it. I don’t blame her. She changes subject and Jesus let’s her. He isn’t going to harp on her past, drudge up sin, or cause her to dwell on pain. On the plus side, this woman moves on to much more important things. He piety, misplaced as it might be is actually quite amazing. Perceiving that the man is a prophet, she isn’t going to dwell on herself, her sin, or her pain, she is going to get to things that bother her. Where is the true place of worship. That is where does one go to find God in his grace. This is a perplexing question and issue for her.
See the Samaritans had had a temple at Gerezim for quite some time. Scriptures had been altered in Samaria to support this. This was the brain child of Jereboam when he split the kingdom in two fighting with Solomon’s Son Reheboam which you can read about in the 12th chapter of 1 Kings. It’s an amazing chapter. But Jereboam knew that eventually the kingdom would turn back to the house of David if they had to go to Jerusalem to worship. So he set up an alternative, and the golden calves make a reappearance. For their part the Samaritans thought they were honestly worshiping the true God, despite God’s warning that if you sacrificed anywhere but the true temple you were worshiping Goat demons. And this woman seems to know that there is only one place to worship. Either her ancestors or the Jews were right. Now that there is a prophet in her midst she can get the true answer.
Jesus answer is twofold and informative on many levels. First he says the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. He talks of worshiping God in Spirit and in truth. The place will no longer matter, only the what and the how. It would be a mistake to think this is advocating Pentecostal style worship, or communing with god in nature. When Christ institutes the Sacraments and instructs the Disciples in what should be preached he sets the parameters of true worship. What he is getting at here, is that where the Holy Spirit is, there is true worship. And the Holy Spirit was found in the temple of God where his name dwells. Now he is found where ever God’s word is spoken in truth. The Holy Spirit is found where the sacraments of Jesus are offered in accordance with Christ’s institution. On an aside, this could be done both on that mountain and in Jerusalem and God would be worshiped there.
But that is just it, Jesus is saying it will no longer be necessary to go to the temple. Jesus affirms that it was the temple in Jerusalem where God is to be found. He tells the woman they worship what they do not know, salvation is from the Jews. That is despite the fact that this woman thought she was m
This is one of the things I find peculiar about Mormon worship by the way. They believe that you have to go to a temple. And despite the fact that there are no stock yards outside this temple, no sheep being brought in, no smoke rising from the courtyard of the temple, they will tell you this is to preserve the Old Testament worship. There was only one temple allowed in Old Testament worship and it was found in Jerusalem it required sacrifice of sheep and goats. All this was a foreshadow to the sacrifice of Jesus who is now the temple, the only temple, he is worshiped in Spirit and in Truth where his word is proclaimed and the sacraments are administered according to his institution. Temple worship is one of the things that tells me more than anything that Mormons are not Christian. They ignore completely the words of Jesus in John four. And Jesus is firm, God is Spirit. That is God does not have flesh and bone. He is not a man like the rest of us. The exception being that Jesus Christ is God, but the human body of Christ was not intrinsic to the being of God. Rather, God who is Spirit could take on any form he wanted to when and where he wanted to, and he chose to take on the form of man in the person of Jesus. So Jesus answers the woman. In doing so he teaches us about the nature of God and what that means for worship of God. And in this, then the woman’s story is diminished. Her past is irrelevant, now she finds salvation in God. This is what is important.