Friday, August 22, 2014

Worship from the Heart (John 4:20-24)

“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”” (John 4:20–24, ESV)

At this point I don’t know if the woman was raising objections and questioning this man that she recognized as being from God, or whether she was sincerely impressed and was questioning the way that her people had gone about worshiping God. After all, she acknowledged Jesus as a prophet of God, and He was a Jew who was there with her and proving Himself to be very authoritative. Her next words were to question Him on the distinctions between where the Samaritans chose to worship as opposed to the Jews. The Jews chose to worship and build their temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans chose Mt. Gerizim for their temple. Reading between the lines, we might go on to think she might have been asking. “Who’s right?”

Rather than giving her a “yes” or “no” type of answer Jesus went on to dig deeper. He told her that a time was coming when neither of these places would be where God the Father is worshipped. There was quickly coming a time when even the temple in Jerusalem was going to be destroyed. But long before the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. we read the events when Jesus gave up His life on the cross, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”” (Matthew 27:50–54, ESV)

Among all that happened in those moments the curtain which had separated the Most Holy Place was torn from top to bottom. It was as if by the very hand of God the curtain had been removed. With Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension the purpose for which He was sent was finished. Man could now through Him receive forgiveness of sins (past, present, and future all at one time and for all time) and be given eternal life. When Jesus gave up His life the perfect sacrifice was completed and there was no longer any need for any lesser sacrifice. The Great High Priest had made Himself personally available to all who would call on His name. So, the questions the woman had about where the proper place to worship might be really weren’t important in light of this eternal perspective.

Beyond this Jesus went on to tell her that she and her people had been missing many of the key pieces of information concerning the coming Messiah. Since they only accepted the books of Moses as authoritative they missed a lot of what God had declared through the prophets and others. As such when they worshiped they might have done so intently, but only with partial knowledge. The Jews, however, were the people with whom God had made a special covenant and to whom He repeatedly revealed Himself and spoke through many various people. This gave them the greater advantage in knowing God and worshiping Him in truth. God’s promise was that through the seed of Abraham He would send a Messiah, and as such it was through the Jews that the Savior of the world would come. And the Jews were told all of this. Jesus went on to tell the woman that a time was soon coming when all true worshipers (Jews or Samaritans or any others) would worship not only based upon the truths which they had been given but also in spirit. The time was coming when all true worshipers of the Father would worship Him through the Son as a response from their heart.

Up until the time that Christ came man had no real picture of God that they could worship. Up until His coming what they knew of God is what He revealed of Himself to be true. With the coming of Christ, God was given a face through the physical life (incarnation) of the Son. With the coming of Christ man was given the ability to see God in Him. Here are just a few of the verses which Jesus spoke concerning our ability to see God in Christ. “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:18, ESV) … “not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.” (John 6:46, ESV) … “Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9, ESV)

Jesus told the woman that there was coming a time very soon when those who really worship God will do so inwardly in such a way that it also impacts their outward actions. The apostle Paul wrote of our spiritual response to what Christ had done for us in Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your [reasonable] spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1–2, ESV) These divisions between Jews and Samaritans would melt away as those who worship the Father come together as one in Christ.

Even us today, while we do not have the physical presence of Christ or photos on our walls or even videos of Him performing miracles to stream on the internet, we do have His life recorded for us in the gospels. We have many of His words written for our benefit, and we have the record of those who lived with Him who shared about what followed. We have the record of Scripture to give us the truth, and we have been given the Spirit of God to work even in our own hearts to make these truths alive and powerful.

Because God sent His Son we not only have been given the greatest gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but we have been given a living picture of our God to encourage us as we grow in His image. I love the words of Mary Magdalene when she saw the resurrected Christ, “I have seen the Lord!”

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