The incident that revealed the spirit of worship

People worship Jesus, the world over. But Jesus never instructed anyone to worship Him, except doing God’s will. He traveled places, accompanied by his disciples, including others like Mary and Martha. He never taught His disciples how to worship, except teaching them to apply what He taught. But, even His disciples often failed to fully comprehend everything He taught, at that time.

During one of his escapades, Jesus confronted a Samaritan woman at the well. Nothing made Him appear as different from any ordinary Jew of His time. He started a conversation with that woman. The custom of the Jews had been not to talk to the Samaritans, due to religious practices. But Jesus deliberately went against that custom, revealing that the religious background of a person was immaterial, in accessing His teachings.

“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.'” (John 4:10) (NIV).

I suppose the woman could not believe what Jesus was saying. How could a mere human effectively provide living water? As a way of mocking Him, she asked Jesus to provide that water, for her to drink. But she also became skeptical of who the person she was chatting with, could be.

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  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.” 

He told her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”  “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.  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.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem” (John 4:11-20) (NIV).

Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24) (NIV).

As can be seen, suddenly, the conversation had gone deep, as to touch on religious worship matters. As identifying Himself as a Jew, Jesus criticizes the Samaritans of having lost true worship. All Israel had been instructed and expected to conduct worship from the religious base in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, even the Jews had lost the mettle, through the Pharisaic hypocrisy. The Jews had Scriptures at their disposal, yet failing to apply what was written in them.

Thoughts on Worship | In Spirit and In Truth

Jesus reveals a new method of worship that disregards Jerusalem as a religious center. There is no record of Him having taught His disciples about this new method of worship. The Samaritans were still regarded as God’s people, although having lost touch with the Law, administered in Jerusalem. “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” (Verse 21).

The new type of worship was to be different from what was commonly practiced. But how different is that worship from what is commonly practiced today? Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. What was to be applicable to the Samaritan woman was to be applicable to those worshipping, even today. “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) (NIV).

The verse is short, but superseding the Old Testament Laws, including worship methods.  Worshipping in spirit does not require a physical location, or some appropriate dress, as was the case with the priests of that time. As the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus practiced the actual standard of worship, applicable to all of us.

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew” (Luke 6:12-14) (NIV).

The above scripture is used by some apostolic sects, assuming it to be an example of how the followers of Christ ought to worship. But prayer is different from the principle of worship. Prayer is communication with God. Whereas worship implies reverence and devotion. Moreover, Jesus showed that a mountain was unnecessary to worship God: “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” (John 4:21).

The meaning of worship is expressing reverence to God, showing that He is worthy of praise. There is, obviously, nothing wrong with worship, as long as one is worshiping in spirit and in truth. The opposite of truth is falsehood, which implies becoming a pretender. The first thing is, therefore, seeking knowledge, which testifies to the truth.

 Pretenders are those whom Jesus lambasted, calling them hypocrites when He was here. Worshiping God requires doing it in spirit and in truth, rather than pretending. In my view, it is impossible to be a true worshiper, when uncertain of who God is. The foundation of true worship is, therefore, knowledge and understanding. Pretending to know God, when not sure, is folly. But how can one know God, who is unseen physically? Humans are limited to physical things. But, one’s existence, reveals God’s existence. There are four proofs, that can be utilized to reveal God’s existence.

Proof Number 1. Personal identity. Anyone seeking God’s existence can start by looking at him/herself to appreciate God’s existence. People get fascinated by various miracles. But the greatest miracle of all time comprises one’s own existence. David was gripped with this and took time to meditate about this reality, leading to one of his musical compositions, describing God’s worthiness:

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be”
(Psalms 139:14-16) (NIV).

David discovered that nothing was real to Him, without appreciating God’s existence. This awesome understanding caused David to dwell in God’s word. To fully understand the reality of God’s existence, David meditated on God’s word. He sought to assimilate God’s word in his life. In another of His musical compositions, David had this to write:

“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.” (Psalms 1:1-3).

Proof Number 2. God’s Word. History books can be as many as Scholars, throughout the ages. But there has not been any Scholar, ever to claim authorship of the Bible. Moses is attributed to having written the first four books of the Old Testament. But Moses was not a Scholar to then be attributed to such writings. He was a prophet. True prophets can be checked against God’s word, to determine between the true and the false prophets.

“You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22) (NIV).

Many books have been produced, but most of those books get discarded for lack of authenticity. The only way to prove whether a prophet is true or not is what comes to pass, against what fails. Moses was the first prophet. There is no record of Moses having been a Scholar, to have had the guts, claiming that what He wrote was true. He wrote, only as God inspired Him. In other words, everything that Moses wrote, should be attributed to God Himself, rather than Moses.

The only proof, showing whether Moses was a true prophet or not, is against the fulfillment of the things he wrote about. The Biblical stories containing the Israelites as God’s people reveal that everything recorded, actually, came to pass. The location of the land of Israel is intact, showing that indeed, God was with the children of Israel.

The most intriguing reality of the Holy Scriptures is that there is nothing said by the true prophets that never took place (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). (Joshua 21:45) Therefore, the authenticity of the Holy Scriptures cannot be disputed by any normal human being. Because God’s word is spiritual, everything about God’s existence is spiritual. There is nothing, ever said, that will not come to pass, if not having come to pass already. Therefore, one of the most authentic tests of God’s existence is the written word, codified in the Holy Bible, whose foundation lies in what Moses wrote.

Proof Number 3. Creation. The psalmist provides another dimension, other than just being fascinated by human existence and God’s written word. David was also fascinated by the magnificence of the entire creation. This is just as the laws of physics leave the scientists perplexed. David spent time observing and meditating about these realities. He appreciated all other forms of creation, rather than just himself. He, accordingly, composed various songs to express his appreciation of God from that perspective. He saw the reality of God through the entire creation, spending time meditating about God’s existence:

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
(Psalms 8:3-4) (NIV).

Just by observing and appreciating God’s works in the physical creation, one begins to understand the existence of the Almighty God. The laws of nature, though taken for granted are a wonderful testimony, to those of truthful disposition. The sun that rises, unmistakably, on a daily basis, and the rains, enabling the survival of animals and all species is fascinating. The skeptics, maintaining the fallacy of atheism could, simply be intellectually challenged, rather than being simply stubborn. Several contributions from other prophets complemented what Moses had initiated. The written word of God was entrusted to the Jews, up to the point that Jesus came. Those Scriptures pointed at the coming Messiah, now appreciated by Christians, as being none other than Jesus Christ.

Proof Number 4. Jesus Christ. Having observed one’s existence, in line with God’s orderly creation, one can also authenticate understanding by studying God’s word. The physical universe is another confirmation. But Jesus came, as to reflect God’s mind in person. His teachings, which were classically confirmed through His resurrection, seal the idea of worshiping in spirit and in truth. But there is more, for those sincere, in knowing about God and how to worship Him in spirit and in truth. The Holy Spirit continues to reveal more, to humanity.

Jesus came to clarify issues about God’s existence. He was like God in person, just as His other name was Emanuel, which means God with us. Jesus never changed anything, except clarifying most of what people did not understand. His testimony about God provides everything needed by those who are sincere, seeking to worship in spirit and in truth. The opposition that Jesus faced was a result of those not desiring light, as benefitting in darkness. Jesus gave this profound truth about worship, to a despicable Samaritan woman, rather than those approvable in the eyes of humanity. When using the above four proofs, one becomes sincere, as being able to worship in spirit and in truth.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.

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