We read today in John ch. 4 of the time Jesus spent in Samaria – they had to pass through Samaria as they travelled from Jerusalem to Galilee – unless they went the long way by going down into the Jordan valley.  The Samaritans were not Jews, they had been brought by the Assyrians to replace the northern tribes they had taken into captivity – as we read in 2 Kings 17 v.24.  “The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities.” These people, v. 32 tells us, served their own gods but “also feared the LORD and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests.”

After Jesus ascended to heaven, the preaching of his message was at first centred on  Samaria after Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 8 v.5,14).  What particularly attracted our interest in today’s chapter are the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman that you will not need to go to “this mountain nor in Jerusalem” to “worship the Father” [v.21] “But” said Jesus, it will be a timewhen the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” [v.23]

When the Temple was destroyed in AD 70 – as Jesus predicted and – “there (was) not … left … one stone upon another…” [Mark 13 v.2] – then the Jews had nowhere to go – to worship. But their worship had largely become a ritual!  The situation is a warning to us – but ‘christian’ history over the centuries shows it has largely been unheeded. Human nature is such that many people like to have objects, such as crucifixes’  to – after a fashion – worship.

Jesus tells the woman, “True worshippers” worship “in spirit and truth.”  Neither God nor Jesus can be made into idols – it is folly to make ‘images’ of Jesus. Verse 24 in John repeats the point – for emphasis – “God is spirit, andthose who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

This is worship in and from our hearts – regardless of where we happen to be – although it is far better in personal worship, to do as Jesus said,  “when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” [Matt. 6 v.6]

By Bro D.Caudery

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