“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.”
I went to a Christian school from 4th grade to 12th grade down in south Florida. It wasn’t affiliated with a particular church but many denominations were represented. Among my friends were Baptists, Methodists, Charasmatics, and Christian Reformed. We would good naturedly debate over who went to the best church. I loved my church because it was the one I grew up in, and it also happened to have a nice gym and a huge youth group! When we talked about our churches, for the most part we were referring to the buildings, but we also had very spirited discussions on theological matters.
We find such a discussion here in John 4, where Jesus is speaking with a Samaritan woman by a well. Whether she was trying to wrestle with a deep question or just grasping at something to say to the holy man (a feeling many of us in ministry are familiar with) her question hit on a well-worn debate that Jesus was about to make irrelevant.
During the time of wandering for the Israelites, the tabernacle represented the presence of God. It was in the middle of the camp as they traveled through the wilderness. As the Israelites settled in the promised land and built the temple, it was still all about the physical place. By the time the above conversation was taking place, the temple in Jerusalem was the main place of worship for the Jews. They didn’t even recognize the location that the Samaritan’s worshipped as valid. Jesus was saying, it didn’t even matter. The new covenant he was ushering in wasn’t about buildings, it was about the sincere adoration of a believer, wherever they happened to be.
When we emphasize the importance of a building, we run the risk of compartmentalizing what was meant to be all consuming. When we tie the “spiritual” part of our lives to a certain place on a certain day or two of the week we are missing the point of what the church truly is. The tabernacle was the place where God lived among His people, but now He lives IN His people and WE have become the temples! The most ornate cathedral pales in comparison to the majesty of God lived out on the streets by those who worship Him in spirit and truth.
While using the HEAR method (see below) consider the following questions:
- What do you think it means to worship in spirit and truth?
- How should we live differently or view ourselves if we are the temple of God?
- How do we reconcile the tension between the truths of yesterday’s devotional and today’s?
Highlight – what words or phrases jump out at you?
Explain – what does the passage mean?
Apply – how does the passage intersect with your life today?
Respond – how is God leading you to respond?
Jon Price, Associate Pastor