Study Notes 4-29-12 covering John 4:16-24

John 4:16-24

4:16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”

  • D.A. Carson remarks, “The change of subject, though abrupt, is not artificial. The Samaritan woman has already failed to grasp who Jesus is, and misconstrued the nature of the living water he was promising. By this turn in the dialogue, Jesus is indicating that she has also misunderstood the true dimensions of her own need, the real nature of her self-confessed thirst.”

4:17-19 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; [18] for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” [19] The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

  • Only a prophet, a man of God, could know these details of her life, thus, the woman immediately perceives that Jesus is more than just a wise man with a claim to “living water.”  This is a man who knows the very details of her life.  At this point in the discussion, the intensity must be so thick that it could be cut with a knife.  The woman has just had her life details (and sin) laid out before her from a total stranger! Carson says, “by displaying his knowledge of her morally messy past Jesus is exhibiting his own more-than-human knowledge  – a point the woman understands. Nevertheless, his remark is not designed to be merely self-reveling: rather it is designed to help the woman come to terms with the nature of the gift he is offering.”
  • The deity and humanity of Christ is clearly revealed in this chapter in such a splendid way that we can really come to no other conclusion than that this man was both fully God and fully man.  He’s tired from His journey, yet He planned the journey in advance and knew exactly when to leave. He’s offering the woman eternal life and knows her life details, and yet he appear to be communicating with her as just a man – there is no angelic radiance or voice from heaven telling her that He is more than just a man from an auditory or visual perspective.
  • One thing that Carson points out that must be examined is the way in which Jesus interacts with people.  He says, “Jesus commonly drives to the individual’s greatest sin, hopelessness, guilt, despair, need…Jesus exposes the whole truth, but in the gentlest possible way; he commends her for her formal truthfulness, while pointing out that she has had five husbands and the man with whom she is now sleeping is not her legal husband at all.”
  • Paul says that the entire world is a prisoner to sin (Galatians 3:22) and Jesus came to set these prisoners free (Luke 4:18)) – that is why He makes it such a priority to get to the heart of sin in these people’s lives.  He does the same with all those whom He calls to Himself.  As Ryle says, “We should mark…the absolute necessity of conviction of sin before a soul can be converted to God.”

4:20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

  • Even though the Samaritans had built a temple in 400 BC on Mt. Gerizim, the Jews, led by John Hyrcanus, destroyed it around 120 BC.  So knowing this, its easy to see why there was a rift between the Jews and the Samaritans!
  • Amazing how she changes the topic here.  It is so “irrational” to do so (Piper).  It’s like she’s saying, “while we’re on the topic of my adulterous lifestyle, what do you think about the worship issue we’ve been dealing with here?”  It makes no sense.  She’s running away from the light (cf. 3:18-21) of the gospel.  Thomas Aquinas is right to say that no man seeks after God, we all seek after the benefits only God can give us while simultaneously running as fast as we can from Him.  And as Sproul notes, “we are, by nature, fugitives.”

4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

  • This verse tells us a great deal about worship and the nature of how people had been thinking about worship up until this point in human history.  Paul articulates this shift in thinking when he said, “Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands” (Acts 7:48).  It is an amazing truth that we don’t have to go to a central location to worship God.  In fact, we are commanded to pray to God without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17) and as Spurgeon points out, this command is immediately proceeded by a commanded to rejoice in the Lord.  We’ve talked about this in past weeks and I’ll come back to it again I’m sure.  It is the truth at the very heart of John Piper’s ministry and the at the heart of what drove the Westminster Divines to state that our entire time here on earth out to be “glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.”  Jesus is showing us that we can worship God and enjoy God anywhere in the world.  Like breathing and eating, for the Christian enjoying God is a normal part of life.  How are we to enjoy Him?  By praying without ceasing.  But entering into His presence as often as possible.  We ought to long to be in fellowship with God.
  • The point is that Jesus Christ was ushering in a shift in not only how people were to worship, but where they could worship.  It used to be that the presence of God would dwell in the temple in Jerusalem and a cloud of glory would emanate out from the holy of holies (2 Chron. 5:14).  It was an awesome spectacle to behold.  Jesus was ushering in a time when the temple of God would be our very bodies (1 Cor. 6:19) and that we could worship God wherever we are and that geography no longer plays a role in our worship. Perhaps no where is this more evident than in Acts 16:25 when we’re told that “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.”
  • When we think about how people came to the temple before in the Old Testament, they had to be ceremonially clean and ready to come before the Lord.  Today I often hear legalistically minded Christians tell me that we need to dress up before we come to church so that we show God the respect due Him.  However, this statement both goes too far, and not far enough.  As we have seen above, we are not bound by any special place and dress code for God does not dwell in temples made by human hands, and so thinking that somehow dressing up gives him glory, we miss the point of just about every Biblical passage on this point since God told Samuel that “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1Sam.16:7).  As Ryle says, “Our Lord tells her (the Samaritan Woman) that true and acceptable worship depends not on the place in which it is offered, but on the state of the worshiper’s heart.”
  • But on the flip-side, we don’t go far enough by not realizing that our very bodies are temples of the Living God.  If this is true, how much more are we to respect the fact that He, the very God of God, the Holy One, dwells in this sanctuary?!   Therefore, let us leave behind any notion of legalism and ungodly thinking and realize that true consecration comes 7 days a week, not simply from 9-12 on a Sunday morning.

4:22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

  • In case there was any confusion as to whether or not Jesus condoned the syncretistic religion of the Samaritans, those questions are put promptly to bed here.  Jesus claims a kind of exclusivity that drives the secular world to anger.

4:23-24 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.”

  • It is hard not to say too much about these two verses, for I can’t emphasize their importance enough.  One thing that stands out to me immediately is the nature and person of God.  In these verses we learn a little of His character, and His person.  For instance, we learn that God is a spirit.  This is crucial for our understanding of who God is – and Jesus uses His teaching of who God is, to make a rhetorical play on words to say that we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. And though there is a play on words, there is much more substance here than that.  What Jesus seems to be saying here, is that we can’t affectively worship the Father without first having the Spirit of God and having a right idea of who He is, and that is what He means by the Spirit and “truth.”
  • But this verse builds on what was mentioned earlier about where we can worship God.  Now we learn more about who can worship God, and it is closely tied to who can really enjoy God.  The unbeliever might well count their rosary over and over again, but they will never by that ritual, be entering into the presence of God.  They are not worshiping God in Spirit. And enjoying God is the farthest thing from their minds. In fact, prayer is a chore, a duty, a ritual, a habit; it’s a crutch to count those beads.  Its borderline superstition!  Contrast this with the believer who enters into worship in prayer with God because they are commanded to enjoy Him, and because they want the fellowship. It is as necessary to them as eating and breathing as I mentioned above.
  • Though, it must be said that for many believers we don’t understand or take full advantage of this joy.  J.C. Ryle says, “The Lord Jesus sis far more ready to hear than we are to pray, and far more ready to give favors than we are to ask them.”  Not only that, but even the Christian mind is given to outward empty forms, “We are all naturally included to make religion a mere matter of outward forms and ceremonies and to attach an excessive importance to our own particular manner of worshipping God.  We must beware of this spirit, and especially when we first begin to think seriously about our souls. The heart is the principal thing in all our approaches to God.  The most gorgeous cathedral service is offensive in God’s sight, if all is gone through coldly, heartlessly, and without grace.”
  • It is the privilege of believers and no others to enter into this communion with God because only they can enter into this communion.  Why?  Notice the two descriptive terms in Jesus’ statement.  He says we worship God in “spirit” and in “truth.”  Only the believer has the “Spirit” of God so only the believer can enter into worship in spirit.  Only the believer knows the “truth” about God and can worship Him without any polluting ideas of idolatry clouding their mind.  This point in crucial because the unbeliever may think they know something of God.  But like this woman at the well, they have no idea of who God really is.  Their worship would simply be idolatry.  This is why it is absolutely critical that we rid our minds of all false notions of who God is.  We must study His character, learn His ways, and learn to love what He loves and to hate what He hates.  If we enter into worship with a false understanding of who God is, we will ask for wrong things, we will not have the mind of Christ: we will be worshiping an idol created in our minds!
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