The Gospel of John

“I Perceive That You Art a Prophet …”

These were the Samaritan woman’s words to Jesus, after He had told her to call her husband and she had responded, “I have none.” Jesus reveled intimate, personal details of her life when He said, “You have said well, ‘I have no husband’ for thou hast had five husbands and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband” (John 4:17-18).

The supernatural knowledge of Jesus astonished those to whom He revealed such. Earlier, when Nathaniel had been informed that before Jesus had even met him, He saw him under the fig tree (John 1:48), Nathaniel exclaimed, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God. Thou art king of Israel” (John 1:49). Time and time again Jesus demonstrated His omniscience. He knew Peter would deny Him three times (Matthew 26:34). He knew that there was an ass with her colt tied in a certain place which the disciples were to unloose and bring to him (Matthew 21:2). He knew that a man carrying a pitcher of water would be in a certain place whom the disciples were to follow (Luke 22:10). He knew many other things because of His divine foreknowledge.

The woman, confronted with one who obviously was a prophet, said, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place men aught to worship” (John 4:20). Jesus told her, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father. Ye worship that which ye know not, we worship that which we know for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:21-22). Some see the woman’s question to be a diversion from an uncomfortable conversation. But it is also possible that the woman, having lived her life conscious of the two peoples and seeing the contrasted Samaritan religion and Jewish religion, may have had doubts about who or what was right. And seeing One who was a prophet of God and could answer her questions, took the opportunity to clarify those questions in her mind.

If she did have doubts about her own worship, Jesus told her that her doubts were valid. “Ye worship that which ye know not. We worship that which we know,” He said. In Jesus’ day, Jews from all over the world traveled to Jerusalem to worship. The Law specified three different occasions when Jews were to go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices and worship. Of course, when Jews lived hundreds or thousands of miles away, in different nations, they were not likely to make three yearly treks there. Still, Jerusalem was God’s chosen city and its temple was the only one in which their sacrifices were acceptable. Because God had chosen Jerusalem as the site of His worship, Jerusalem was the place where men were to go to worship. Today, of course, there is no temple in Jerusalem for people to travel to, so Jews do not make yearly journeys to worship. The Jews did know what they worshipped and that salvation was from them. Sadly, they do not recognize that the Savior they gave to all men is Jesus of Nazareth, and that His religion is the only true religion today. Consequently, their worship of God through the Old Testament is of no value to them.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the time was coming when neither in Samaria nor in Jerusalem would men worship the Father. He repeated that statement twice: first in v. 21, and then in v. 23 when He said, “But the hour cometh and now is when the true worshipper shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be His worshipper.” Jesus did not mean that the time would come when one could not offer worship to God in either Jerusalem or Samaria; He meant that neither place would be the only place where men could offer sacrifices. The truth is the place where the body of the worshipper is has nothing to do with whether God accepts his worship or not. True worship is determined as to whether his spirit worships or not, and whether the worship he offers is of truth.

Without doubt there are likely very few now in either Jerusalem or the place once called Samaria who worship the Father. But there could be if the people in those places come to recognize the authority Christ has and accept Him for who He is — the Son of God. Faith in Jesus as the Christ is an absolute necessity because He is to be worshipped as our Creator, Redeemer, Deliverer, and Protector. The answer Jesus gave the Samaritan woman is His assurance that worship to God can properly offered any place on this globe if man offers worship in spirit and truth.

Jim McDonald