Posts Tagged ‘truth’

Series: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Last week we began looking at the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. We saw how Jesus crossed the social boundaries of gender, morality and religion/culture to speak to her about the living water he gives – that is, the Holy Spirit who brings eternal life. This is why he “had to pass through Samaria” as it says in John 4:4; it was the Father’s purpose.

Today we look at the middle portion of our story  and our focus in on worshiping the Father in Spirit and truth.

John 4:16-27

“16Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ 17The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’”

So they’ve been talking and Jesus turns the conversation toward her. He wants to get at a core issue in her life. Although she was bold before when she was questioning Jesus, here she becomes evasive. In fact, she wants to hide something from Jesus.

She tells Jesus, “I have no husband.” Now the word that is used here by both Jesus and the woman can mean “husband” or simply “a man.” She uses it to mean that she is not married, making her sound like she is not in a relationship.

But Jesus knows her heart and her story, just as he knows all about each of our lives. As John 2:24 says, “Jesus knew all people . . . for he himself knew what was in a person.”

He knows that she has been married five times. It’s not clear to us why, but there were almost certainly some divorces involved here. By the standards of the day (at least in Judaism) only 3 legal marriages were acceptable. So she has been in and out of a number of relationships, which would have reflected badly on her.

But more importantly, Jesus knows that she is in a sixth relationship. She is in a non-marital sexual union; as we say today, she is living with someone.

Jesus also employs the double meaning of the word husband/man and thereby takes her statement “I have no husband” as a confession of her sin. He emphasizes how true her words are, despite her intention to mislead him. He is saying, ‘Yes, you are right, you don’t have a “husband.” You are living in sexual immorality with “a man” who is not your husband.’

“19The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.’”

She’s impressed by what he knows and comes to the conclusion that he’s a prophet. So she has a theological question for him about the right way to worship. She asks which mountain is the right place to worship, Mt. Gerizim or Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.

Again division raises its head. She says that “our fathers” worshiped on this mountain, most likely referring to Abraham (Genesis 12:7) and Jacob (Genesis 33:10) who worshiped at Mt. Gerizim. And since Samaritans didn’t accept any Scriptures except the Law of Moses – the first five book of the Bible – and these don’t talk about a temple in Jerusalem, the Samaritans argued that true worship should take place on Mt. Gerizim (Some of their case: Jacob’s dream took place here, where he said, “God is in this place – Genesis 28:16, and he built an altar here in 33:19-20; Deuteronomy 27:3-5).

But Jews, of course, based on further Old Testament teaching, built the temple in Jerusalem.

mt Gerizim

If you will remember they are talking at Jacob’s well. This is a picture of Mt. Gerizim near Jacob’s well. The Samaritans did build a temple here in 400 BC. But it was destroyed by a group of Jews in 128 BC. Well, the ruins of this temple would have been in sight from Jacob’s well,
 as they were talking.

“21Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.’”

With the coming of Jesus things are changing. And his coming transcends the divisions between Jews and Samaritans. From now on neither mountain is key.

Although, for the record, Jesus confirms that prior to his coming the Jews were right about Jerusalem and right about what true worship is. He also acknowledges that “salvation if from the Jews,” both as a matter of God’s historical working through them, and specifically in that he, Jesus is Jewish. (Jesus clearly here affirms that he is a Jew. Most often in John “Jew” is used negatively for Judeans who oppose Jesus.)

“23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth . . .”

Again, things are changing and Samaritans can be a part of this. True worshipers will not be marked by which mountain they worship on, they will be marked by two things. They will worship:

In Spirit – this is worship that is inspired and empowered by the Spirit. (Jesus has just taught her about living waters that refer to the Spirit and so we should take this to be a reference to the Holy Spirit, as in almost every other case of the word Spirit in John).

In truth – this is worship that is in accord with what Jesus teaches; which is the full revelation of God’s truth.

What he is doing here is teaching her one part of this, that true worship is not exclusive to a central shrine or temple but is Spirit inspired. If the current worship of Samaritans is not fully true (you worship what you do not know – v. 22 ) they can offer true worship if they worship in accord with what Jesus says.

“ . . . for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”

This is an amazing statement. God is on a mission. God doesn’t sit back a wait for people. He actively seeks out people to know and honor him. And this includes this Samaritan woman. God wants her and all people to worship him in Spirit and truth.

When Jesus says, “God is spirit” he means that God is not physical; he is not just found in one place. He can be worshiped anywhere.

Notice that we worship the Father, in accord with what the Son teaches, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

“25The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’”

Having heard Jesus’ answer, she isn’t fully committed. She speaks of the coming Messiah who will “tell us all things,” that is, settle this dispute and others. The Samaritans had a different idea of the Messiah. They spoke of the Taheb or restorer based on Deuteronomy 18:15-19 where Moses speaks of God raising up a prophet like him, to whom all should listen. They saw the Messiah as more of a teacher. She is saying, ‘when he comes he will sort out the differences between Jews and Samaritans.’

“26Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he.’”

At the beginning of their conversation Jesus notes that she doesn’t know who he is. “If you knew who it is that is speaking to you . . .” you would ask him for living water. But now he has clearly told her. This is an amazing revelation of Jesus to her, ‘I am the Messiah.’ It is very unusual for Jesus to be so clear. She is certainly blessed to have him speak this way to her.

Specifically, he is saying that he is the one Moses spoke of and he has just settled the dispute between the Jews and Samaritans as he spoke to her.

“27Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or, ‘Why are you talking with her?’”

So we end today where we began last week, with Jesus crossing the social boundary of gender, and the disciples are duly shocked, but don’t say anything.

Once again I have two questions from the passage that should challenge us:

Do you worship in Spirit and truth?

To use the language of Jesus in v. 23, are you a “true” worshiper of God?

It is not about coming to this building each Sunday, so that you think you have worshipped because you have come to a certain place and sat through a service. Perhaps you are here but you are really distracted about your week to come and all that you have to do, or you are still trying to figure out how to deal with the problems of last week. Or maybe you are here but you are busy talking or texting to others. Or maybe your coming here is more about a weekly ritual than true worship.

True worship is about the Spirit of God opening up your heart to receive from God – as we gather to sing and pray and hear God’s word, or as you do these things during the week wherever you are at. We have to allow the Spirit to move within us and among us so that we connect to God. This is true worship.

And again, as last week, I ask –

Are you a part of God’s mission?

It is so clear in this passage, God is seeking people to worship him truly. God wants them to know him and honor him and to be made whole be recognizing our true King.

Are you a part of this? Do you let God work through you in your everyday lives to fulfill his mission? Being a part of God’s mission includes several things. We saw last week:

1. It includes divine appointments. This is why Jesus “had to pass through Samaria.” God wants this woman, with all of her brokenness and failures to worship him truly.

2. It includes crossing social boundaries. In our part of the story today all three boundaries are dealt with – gender, morality and the differences between Jews and Samaritans.

3. It includes a focus on Jesus. When possible division came as she asked which mountain is correct for worship, Jesus focused on how his coming transcends these differences.

And then we also see today two more aspects of God’s mission:

4. It includes dealing with issues:

– her sexual immorality – v. 16. Jesus didn’t shy away from this. It needed to be dealt with.
– her misunderstandings – v. 22. The Samarian errors about worship.

5. It includes leading people to true worship. This is the point of God’s mission. Once we have come alive to God by drinking of the living waters, the Spirit leads us to be in relationship with God through worship.

William Higgins


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Last week we began looking at five specific steps that we can take to overcome sin in our lives.

The first two steps have to do with getting ready for testing. First, we need to understand what God’s will is, and acknowledge our weakness to do what God says. Second, we need to remain alert in prayer for times of testing and trial. We have to be vigilant and ask God to spare us testing lest we fail him.

In a test –

Satan will attack our thinking

He seeks to deceive and confuse us; to twist up our thinking so that we will fall into sin. As Jesus said, he “has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him” – John 8:44.  Revelation tells us that he is “the deceiver of the whole world” – Revelation 12:9.

He will try anything and everything to make us doubtful about God’s path. He will put thoughts in our head, speak to us through other people, and he will even quote Scripture, in a distorted way, as he did with Jesus in the wilderness – Matthew 4. Whatever it takes.

He wants to get us to think that it’s alright to sin. You know how we often rationalize our wrong choices. We offer up “reasons” to justify why we are doing what it wrong. We might ask, ‘it isn’t really a sin, is it?’ Or we might say, ‘certainly under these circumstances it’s OK.’ Or, ‘so and so does it and they are Christian.’ He will do whatever it takes to get our thinking distorted. He uses the influence of the world to deliver these messages.

It’s a battle that goes on in the mind. And let’s face it, when we are in a test; when we are in a difficult situation that is putting pressure on us – we want to find a way out. Our flesh is weak and this is the kind of thing we do all the time.

Here are some examples of this:

  • Drug/alcohol abuse. You have just had a bad family fight, and you think, ‘It’ll just be this one time to get me through. Then I’ll stop again.’
  • Sexual temptation. You know pornography is wrong but you innocently stumble onto some online. You think, ‘I wasn’t looking for it.’ And then you linger for a while and enter into lust.
  • Anger. You struggle with outbursts that hurt others and damage your relationships and you have committed to stop. But then, you are in a situation where feel someone has really falsely accused you. You think, ‘God will understand. I’m just correcting an injustice. This is different.’ And then you blow up.
  • Gossip. A friend entrusts you with their private information. You know gossip is wrong, but when you are with some other friends and they start to ask you about this person, pushing you for something juicy, you think, ‘The information isn’t really that bad and besides, these people can pray for my friend.’

In each of these cases, we know what is right. But we allow our thinking to become distorted, and in this way we excuse our sinful choices.

Learning from Jesus

Jesus faced this battle of the mind throughout his ministry. Satan sought to get him to put aside God’s will for his life. We learn from Jesus’ responses, how to respond ourselves. Two things stand out:

1. Counter Satan’s deception with the truth. In Matthew 4:4-10 Satan was trying to cause Jesus to stumble away from the path of the cross. For instance, in the third test he basically says, ‘If you worship me, I will give you the power and authority of the nations.’ In other words, you don’t have to die to get it.

Well, each time Satan came at him, Jesus responded, “It is written . . ..” He countered Satan’s suggestion with the truth of the Scriptures; by quoting Scripture.

In the same way, we can quote or read aloud or meditate on Scriptures that pertain to what we are  struggling with. To use our previous examples:

  • Drug/ alcohol abuse – Galatians 5:19-21. It is written about drunkenness, “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” This lays out God’s will in quite black and white terms. It is not God’s will for me to abuse drugs.
  • Sexual temptation – Matthew 5:28. It is written, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” This is not God’s will for me.
  • Anger – James 1:20. It is written, “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.” There is another way than angry outbursts.
  • Gossip – Romans 1:29-32. It is written of those who gossip, “those who practice such things deserve to die.” It is serious and it goes against God’s will.

By repeating the truth of God is this way, we keep our minds thinking God’s thoughts and dispel the deceptions of Satan.

We also learn from Jesus to 2. Tell Satan to stop and go away. In Mark 8:31-33 when Jesus told his disciples that he must die on the cross, Peter came to him and rebuked him, saying that this must never happen. Jesus heard the voice of Satan as Peter spoke to him.

So he rebuked Peter and Satan as well. He said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” – v. 33. He is saying to Satan, “No!” “You are wrong!” And he tells him to “get behind me,” that is, to go away. We also see this in the wilderness testing of Jesus, where he said to Satan, “be gone” – Matthew 4:10.

In the same way, we can also tell Satan to stop and go away when he tries to confuse and deceive us. We have the authority to do this in Jesus. As he said in Luke 10:19, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.” We can simply say, “Depart from me in the name of Jesus!”

A note: Often when people talk about speaking to or rebuking Satan, things can get kind of crazy. You often hear Satan ridiculed, made fun of, or put down in various ways. I just want to be clear – we are never to do this. It’s not our place. It is God’s place to do this.

We should learn from Jude 1:9 which says, “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (NIV). If Michael is careful how he speaks to Satan, so should we be. The proper response is simply to rebuke Satan. That’s all that’s needed.

I want to continue to illustrate each step that we look at with –

Peter and Jesus

 First we look at Peter’s failure. Peter was not focused on God’s truth. In fact, he didn’t even think that it was God’s will for Jesus to die on the cross. Earlier, when Jesus first told his disciples that he had to die, Peter responded -”Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you” – Matthew 16:22. At Jesus’ arrest he still believed this. . Thinking that Jesus was about to start a war, he acted in the flesh to cut off the man’s ear, who had come with those who sought to arrest Jesus – Mark 14:47. He entered the test confused, and so he had no chance. He had already lost the battle of the mind.

 Jesus’ example. Jesus, however, stayed focused on God’s truth. After he prayed three times to see if God would change his mind, and God did not, Jesus went forward to do God’s will.

As the soldiers arrested him he said, “let the Scriptures be fulfilled” – Mark 14:49. And he carried this attitude all the way through to his death on the cross.

Not that he wasn’t tempted further to rationalize a way out:

  • Jesus certainly would have heard the voice of Satan when the Jewish and Roman authorities asked him to defend himself at trial. ‘You don’t have to die! Just say the right words and you can live.’ And he probably could have.
  • And he certainly heard the voice of Satan when he was on the cross and various ones said to him, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” – Mark 15:32. They were mocking him, but what if he had come down? He could show them the truth once for all.

But Jesus didn’t listen to Satan. He didn’t listen to the world. He kept his mind focused on God’s truth and he walked the path of the cross.

Let me end by asking –

Are you focused on God’s truth?

When Satan tries to get you to rationalize choosing to sin:

1. Do you counter with the truth of Scripture? Do you know what the Scriptures say in your area of struggle? When you are in a test do you bring these Scriptures to mind?

2. Do you tell Satan to stop and go away? Do you follow the example of Jesus? And do you stand in the authority of his name to tell Satan to leave?

I encourage you to put this step into practice this week.

William Higgins

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