“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.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
JOHN 4:23-26 (ESV)
A few weeks ago my wife and I left with my brother and his fiancé to attend a wedding hours outside of town. We were fairly certain we had left with enough room to survive any potty breaks or wrong turns and still show up on time. About an hour or so into the trip we began to realize our planning had not accounted for how far off course we had actually driven. Significantly behind schedule, we had on our hands a unique dilemma. How late is too late? We were invited to the reception, but what bit of social stigma would await the noticeably absent wedding guests who suddenly appeared in the food line? After a spirited debate in the car, we found comfort in this: our wedding gift had secured for us a spot at the table. What we brought covered our tardiness and saved us a slice of cake.
This seems to be humanity’s typical method of interaction, an exchange of goods, a purchase or securing of one thing through the giving or yielding of another. This default makes sense for us in many places – at the grocery store, the gas station, or a restaurant, for example. It doesn’t make much sense where and when we come to God.
In John 4, the Son of God is tired. He is on a journey to Galilee and pauses to drink at a well in Samaria. While sitting here in the midday heat he encounters a woman looking to fill her pails and leave. She is a Samaritan, rejected by the Jews as a perverter of their faith. She is a woman, dismissed in a patriarchal society (see verse 27). She is also likely poor, unable to have servants do her work, or ostracized, avoiding any interaction that might bring up a personal shame. The passage doesn’t clarify which is true, but both are likely. In any case it’s clear she comes carrying more than her pails. She has wounds that weigh on her. Jesus sees the woman’s deeper needs before they are brought to him, and he responds to them with a promise and a plan. Living water is coming, and He is the well.
The words he chooses here reveal a trinitarian statement. “God is spirit,” he says, “and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.“ The Father is seeking worshipers who meet Him and abide with him in His nature and His essence. This kind of relationship is impossible for any of us – apart from Christ. Only Jesus is holy enough to be in communion with the Father, as he is the perfect and unassailable Truth, God’s very Word embodied and sent to die for us. He is the only path to true worship, the one we must follow to see God. This is why we are given the gracious gift of the Spirit, so that we might draw nearer and nearer to Jesus, be united in him, and follow as he leads. In this way, all three persons are present in and throughout our worship. This is what Jesus means by “spirt and truth.” God is where our devotion is headed. He is also how it gets there.
The depths of this would have been far beyond the understanding of the woman at the well, but the implications were easily grasped. There was nothing she could bring to make her acceptable or worthy. She was rejected and ashamed. But Jesus saw her anyway. He sat with her, and he spoke to her. The Father is seeking you and has sent me to find you.
The thing that I find most moving about this passage is that it was his weariness that set the table. Jesus sat tired at the well ready for this woman to come and show her true self to him. Isn’t this always how he reaches to us, proving himself so that we can stop trying to prove ourselves? There is nothing we could do to secure a place at God’s table, no gift we could bring to cover the errors of our sinful nature. But God knows this and wants us still. So in His grace He makes a way. His Spirit calls us to Him, to sit beside the waiting, wounded Son. There we see that God came down to be weak that we might bring our weakness to him and find strength. My friend, let down your load today. Stay a while.
God I come to you today knowing You are already right here sitting and waiting for me. You know my needs before I speak them. I work hard to hide so much, but you know my hurt before I show it to You. Remind me today that You alone offer what I need. Help me desire You. Help me yield to your Spirit as it guides me in all truth to Your presence. AMEN.
Despite our efforts to hide weakness, Jesus sees and seeks us in our hidden messes. Who in your life knows the truest you and loves you still? Take time to reach out and thank them.