God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Have you ever defined worship? How would you explain it to a 12-year-old?
In our current Christian culture, worship is very often used as an adjective (worship leader, worship music) leading people to robotically connect worship with singing at church.
But in the scripture, worship is most often a verb, a spiritual activity in which those who recognize the transcendent greatness of God engage.
Worship is the declaration of the unparalleled worth of the Triune God.
Anglican Bishop William Temple affirmed worship to be “the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable”.
And it intrigues me, that the only extended conversation the Lord Jesus had on the topic was not with His Jewish followers, or His inner circle of three, or even with a ranking Jewish religious official – but with an unnamed woman outside of Israel.
He had just met her. She was a Samaritan. A woman with a decidedly checkered past.
And that seems to be the reason why she came to the well alone and at noon, long after the other local women had gathered, drawn, socialized, and departed – getting the heavy work done before the sun was high.
When Jesus had explained her marital history – You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband (John 4:17,18) – she deftly changed the subject.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain (v.20), she said.
Mount Gerizim was the center of Samaritan worship, and the majority of today’s Samaritans (total population less than 1000) still live within its proximity. It peaks near the Palestinian city of Nablus on the West Bank; Samaritans continue today to celebrate Passover at this location.
And her diversion led to Jesus’ most detailed exposition on worship, and His assertion that He was ushering in an era of truth which would be reflected in the worship of the people of God.
Additionally, He made clear that God is never pleased with ignorant worship, no matter where or from whom: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks (v.23).
Authentic worship is spiritual, not human or physical.
Authentic worship involves the Holy Spirit as the Worship Leader.
Authentic worship of necessity involves God’s revealed Word as the truth. It is rooted in doctrine. It is founded on correct understanding. That’s why genuine worship often involves an open Bible.
And, authentic worship would appear to involve the head and the heart. The result: apologist Ravi Zacharias declares worship to include sense and service.
And this verse gives us the only New Testament record of the Father seeking anything or anyone: the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
The Lord Jesus also chose to provide to this otherwise unknown, unnamed Samaritan woman His most powerfully direct declaration of Himself as the Messiah.
When she said, I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming (v.25), Jesus responded by affirming, I, who speak to you am He (v.26).
Takeaway: Worship is often associated with religion, church, liturgy, and superstition. However, in our celebrity-obsessed culture, the worship of personalities is a cult phenomenon evidenced constantly in the media, the arts, and in sports and entertainment.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky was the Russian novelist and philosopher who lived and died in the 1800s. He could have been commenting on the 21st century when he observed: as long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship.
But our God-given desire and capacity to worship is to be directed solely to Him. Therein is coherence as the dependent creatures worship the eternal Creator. Therein too, is delight and fulfillment.
And when we worship, we do so before an audience of One – the Triune God.
~ graphic from freeimages.com