Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said,`I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming ” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
From water to relationships to worship, the interaction between Jesus Christ and the woman at the well revolves around the thirst for fulfillment. How easily we miss that emptiness has unique ways of touching on relationships, money, careers, ambitions, worship, etc. Sin taints everything about us.
It’s hard to fix a problem without addressing the real issue; God’s just not a big fan of spiritual “duct tape.” When God operates on the idols of the heart, it’s like an open heart surgery while being awake and without anesthetization: it hurts; we see things being cut out; we are prone to resist. Yet we are better for it and rescued by what He knew could not remain.
What Jesus offers, the woman doesn’t perceive. What she needs, she doesn’t perceive, either. This is a sinful human problem: to have needs that we are not perceptive of and to demand from God what we think we need. It’s also human to ask Him to fix what we think are the problems when they may at times be warning signals or the means of conformation. Romans 8:28-29 even tells us that “all things work together for good to them that love Him, to them who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” The goodness of all things is in their usefulness in the hands of God to bring a person to the spiritual state that He desires.
Water (H2O) was not the woman’s greatest need. Sometimes it can seem like we’re asking God, “Please, just keep my life comfortable so I don’t have to change.” Water would have been a very shallow fix. Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” This is not an accident in the conversation; it’s intended to touch upon a whole other manifestation of her thirst and emptiness.
The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Is there a way to tell if her shame is coming forth? Her response is extremely vague, intentionally so. While it was technically accurate, she did not intend to offer up any further revelation and no one ever does when it’s a sensitive spot of shame. This is where the knowledge of Christ, the intimate knowledge, comes up again in the Gospel of John. Jesus said this to bring up that sore subject because He already knew her situation and would manifest His deity on a more personal level.
“You have well said,`I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” Did Jesus shame her? No, but that shame was inside of her, and her conscience was certainly vigilant throughout this conversation. Jesus calls out her acknowledgement by saying “In that you spoke truly.” He’s commending her for her honesty but also identifying that she was only as honest as she had to be. Her emptiness had been causing her to seek fulfillment, and her unfulfilling endeavors were causing her shame.
The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” It’s as if she’s saying, “Let’s talk about You, enough about me!” Attention is diverted to Christ, and yet perception is as well. Nicodemus came to Christ and said in John 3:2 that no could do the things Jesus did unless God was with Him. The woman at the well hears Him tell her who she is, in part, and perceives He is a prophet, someone speaking on behalf of God.
Where is the appropriate place to worship? That’s basically the question she raised. The conversation was getting too deep, too personal, and something more on the surface was comfortable. While we run into this commonly in the secular world, we also face this problem in church; it’s quite easy to study the heavy things to the neglect of the personal. Deep, cerebral subjects can often mask the insecurity of looking within our own hearts.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Translation: the time is coming when the idea of worship will not be tied to the place but to the heart. Jesus came to save sinners and to make them right with God in their hearts. Worship is not gained or lost by the setting; it comes into the building in the hearts of the people, or it doesn’t. God does not like vain worship, either. Listen to Amos 5:21-23:
“I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.”
It would probably surprise many people in the present if God were to come into their worship service and to scream, “STOP!” That’s the heart of His words in Amos. We must worship in spirit and truth. The core of who we are, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, must worship in alignment with what is true, not what we want to be true or what we’ve concocted to be true. Scripture must be our standard for all matters of faith and practice.
The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming ” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
The one thing the woman says she “knows” (personal knowledge) in this conversation is that the Messiah is coming; she’s convinced of that. She knows that when He comes, He will tell them all things. This doesn’t mean “all things” as in everything possible. What it is probably referring to is setting all things straight as to what is true: is it what the Jews believe? Is it what the Samaritans believe? Is it different? He will set the record straight.
Jesus responded to this by saying, “I who speak to you am He.” This woman’s appointed day of meeting the Christ and finding fulfillment in Him had come. She no longer had to fumble around in the darkness trying to find satisfaction for the Light had come and the living water was ready to drink.
What can we take from this today? First, we are all given to emptiness because of sin. Look upon others with compassion before judgment and realize that every time any of us chooses to neglect Christ, we will be dissatisfied.
Secondly, the greatest antidote to sinful behavior is righteous fulfillment in Christ, not behavior shaming. The more that a person finds joy in Christ, the more they will move away from their old sinful habits and behaviors; it’s God at work in them (Phil. 2:12-13). Sinful behavior often reveals that spiritual thirst is being mishandled.
Finally, worship comes from the heart. Our hearts matter to God far more than lip service, traditions, and empty service. Before you “go to worship,” make sure you’ve brought it with you; it’s easy to leave behind.
Have you found fulfillment in Christ, and are you still finding it in Him? Move in that direction!
Prayer from Pastor Sam:
Father, please help us to find rest, fulfillment and refreshment in You. Jesus makes it clear to us in the Bible that there’s no fulfillment outside of Him and yet we are prone to wander and to choose lesser things to the neglect of Your glory and our good. Help us to cling to the truths of Your word and give us wisdom to follow You as You’d have us to. Give us guidance as a church through this time. Purify our worship and help us to serve You from the heart and not just the head. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.