33: True Wellbeing (John 4:16-26)
33. True Wellbeing
“Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” (John 4:16)
Jesus is going to answer her request and teach her how to draw water from the well of life.
“First of all,” Jesus says, “go back to your old water source.”
“Go call your husband.”
Jesus is going to gently, but clearly, lead her to see the wrong well she has been drinking from. Her well was the wrong well morally and it was the wrong well emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. That is the way it is. If we drink from an immoral well, we will never be truly satisfied, at peace or healthy. We will never have a true sense of wellbeing.
Pure water is the only water that satisfies. That only comes from heaven. Morality is important. Jesus is gently leading her there. This not just about relationship with Jesus, but about sorting out the relationships that are impure. You cannot drink from both wells if you want the full benefits of the water of life.
“The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’” (John 4:16-18)
A Nathanael moment. Just like when He met that “true Israelite”, Jesus knew her and she knew it. This is now the key moment in the process of finding living water. She is known. She knows that she is known. Like Isaiah before the throne of God: “I am a man of unclean lips”. She has a choice. Will she run from the knowing?
Interestingly she doesn’t. She tries to divert His piercing all-seeing eyes away from her, yes, but she does not run. And that was her salvation.
Once Nathanael knew He was known, He immediately acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah. This lady is not there yet. She will be, in less than a minute. But right now she can “see that you are a prophet”.
In other words, Jesus can see all things about us. We do not see who He is. Until His eyes start to pierce us, and when we are revealed in His eyes, suddenly the scales begin to fall off our own and we begin to see Him for who He really is. If we will not run away when we discover that we are fully known.
We start seeing when we don’t run from His knowing. We start truly knowing when we don’t run from his seeing.
In her case, she didn’t get it right at first. She was close to the truth. She calls Jesus a prophet. But He gently leads her the rest of the way.
What has Jesus seen in her? He has seen her well. This has been where she has gone to look for life and satisfaction. Maybe she was addicted to those feelings of first love. Maybe she had a sexual addiction. Whatever it was, she had been back to the well of new relationships with men a number of times. And she was at it again.
She goes for physical fulfillment before lasting commitment. She is “with” her present man before she is married to him.
Seemingly the woman is uncomfortable in the knowing because she throws out a political hot topic.
“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.’” (John 4:19-20)
Presumably she’s trying to divert his focus away from her by stirring up some of the interracial tensions between Jews and Samaritans. This was an intense and deep seated dispute. It would normally be more than enough to put distance between them again. And, in her uncomfortableness, maybe a bit of distance would feel good right now.
She obviously doesn’t want to talk about the topic that Jesus has introduced. She isn’t between relationships, she already has been able to attract the attention of another man. She doesn’t want to open up about her life and her pain, although Jesus has already prized her open by getting to the roots of her longing. If we were in Jesus’ position, you and I might have tried to get her back on track with talking about her real needs. But Jesus doesn’t seems to want to expose her further. Kindness. He goes with the distraction, which turns out in the end to lead to the very root of her problem and certainly the only solution.
Jesus is brilliant, again. He doesn’t ignore her question this time, unlike the previous one about Him being greater than Jacob. She won’t feel that He is pushing past her defenses. But He answers the question in such a way that it utterly disarms the threat of the interracial dispute.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.’” (John 4:21)
He doesn’t take the traditional sides at all. He says that neither side is right. He gently turns her. She has asked a general question about where people worship. Jesus makes it personal. He speaks prophetically into her, calling out the worshiper that she really is. He is helping her tap into the real well. Let me reshape the sentence.
“An hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, believe Me.”
“You are going to worship” Jesus tells her, “but not where you think.”
Despite not taking the traditional Jewish side in the question she raises, He doesn’t back down from the special place that His people, the Jews, have in the heart and plan of God.
“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (John 4:22)
If this Samaritan is going to be saved, she is going to have to humble herself to accept that it comes through the Jewish line. All saved Gentiles should have the same revelation. It is both humbling and releasing.
However, there is something else in this statement. “You worship what you do not know”.
Have she and her people been trying to worship God? Apparently. Jesus has told her “you worship.”
Have she and her people been trying to find the right place to worship God? Apparently true as well. However, she has been asking the wrong question. Her main problem is not that she does not know where to worship, her problem has been that she has not known who to worship. She has been trying to worship what she does not know. Such attempts at worship will always leave people thirsty. It is never satisfying, because worship only quenches our deepest thirst when we are worshipping the right “Who”, that we know.
Jesus is turning her “red herring” question towards the answer that she is really seeking. She has been trying to drink from Jacob’s well physically and spiritually. Worshipping where she thought Jacob worshipped as well as physically drinking from where he drank. But it has left her dry and looking for love and satisfaction in all the wrong places.
Jesus is bringing her to the waters of life. He moves the potential argument away from Jew and Samaritan, from Jerusalem and “this mountain”, towards the answer to every question and every dispute. It is the only true answer to every question and every dispute.
“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.” (John 4:23)
Jesus sat down at the well to get rest and refreshment. But now He understands why He is really here. His Father is looking for worshipers. And He has found one right here at this well. She doesn’t look anything like a true worshiper right now, the exact opposite in many ways. But that’s how we all are found by God. Worshipping in all the wrong places, with the wrong motivations and attitudes. He can make a true worshiper out of anyone.
However, the Father is not out to force people to worship, He is simply looking for them. He is seeking them out. He is not looking for the finished article though. He’s just looking for a longing heart that He can turn towards Himself.
Jesus tells her that worship will no longer happen at a place. We no longer need to go to Jerusalem or to the Samaritan’s mountain, or any other physical place to worship. We can worship anywhere because God is spirit (not physical) and therefore not bound to one physical place.
He is no longer coming to our designated places of worship. If we want to worship Him, we need to go to where He is. And He is in spirit and in truth. That is where He lives.
God is “in spirit”. The previous story John told us was about Jesus speaking to a devout God fearing Jewish ruler, almost the polar opposite of this woman in terms of race, gender, morality and status in the community (probably deliberately so on the author’s part). He told Nicodemus that he could not see or enter the kingdom of heaven unless he was born again. He told Him that rebirth was only possible through the Spirit.
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6)
The kingdom of heaven is seen and entered by those who are in spirit, those who are born again and alive spiritually. The kingdom of heaven cannot be seen nor entered in our flesh. We need to be spirit and we can only become spirit if we are born again of the Spirit of God (“ex pneuma” in the Greek).
Now He tells this woman, who, unlike Nicodemus, is not given a name, that she can only worship “in spirit”.
It doesn’t matter where we come from in race, gender, status in our community or even morally. If we want to see and enter and worship in the kingdom of heaven, we all come the same way. We all need a transformation. We all need to be born again, because we are flesh and God is spirit and if we want to see, meet with and worship Him we need to become like He is. We need to be of the Spirit and we need to be in spirit (“en pneuma”).
God is “in truth”. God is not a liar, or one who covers over and hides who He really is. God doesn’t have a closet full of secrets that He is withholding from anyone. He has no need to be ashamed, embarrassed or in any way self protecting of who He is. He is “in truth”. He is who He is. That is how he revealed Himself to Moses and His people. “I am who I am.”
If this Samaritan woman is to become a true worshiper then she must move into truth. She must leave her place of self preservation and pretence. She must move into the light of being absolutely known and not run away from such knowing.
Now we understand why Jesus has gone with her distracting question. She meant it to deflect away from herself. Jesus gently turned it back on to her. In other words He told her: “You do not feel comfortable here in the light of My knowing. You are now here in the truth. You want to know where to worship? Well this is it. This is where you worship, right here where you are standing. Right here in the place of being fully known. Right here in the truth.”
God is Spirit and so we must be in spirit to worship Him. If our flesh begins to rise and we let it, we will find it harder and harder to truly worship. If we live to please the physical desires of that flesh, worship will become more foreign for us, because we are living in a land that is foreign to the Spirit of God. We might go through the forms of worship, and even look good to the world around us in that process, but it will not be pleasing to God. It will not be truthful worship.
God is in truth and so we must be in truth to worship Him. It is no good putting on a pretence, pretending to be holy when we are not, pretending to be happy when we are not, pretending to be intimate with God when we are not. We can enjoy the music and even feel something moving in our soul, but it will not be pleasing to God if it is not in truth. No, if we want to be one of the worshipers that the Father is looking for, then we need to be in truth, allowing ourselves to be fully seen and known, however difficult that is for us.
This means that the place of worship is not Jerusalem, or “this mountain” or some other physical location. The place of our worship is vulnerability, honesty, openness and transparency in the Holy Spirit, because that’s where the Father is.
“If we walk in the light as He is in the light” John tells us later in his first letter, chapter one and verse seven. That is where we need to be if we want to worship Him.
And He wants us to worship Him. He is looking for worshipers. Not just for His own pleasure, but because He knows that this is what will satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. If we learn to love like He loves. If we learn to give ourselves away, sacrificially if need be, to another that we love more than we love ourselves. For that is what it means to truly worship.
The Father knows that if we can worship in this way, we will be ultimately and eternally satisfied. His pleasure and our pleasure absolutely satisfied in mutual love. The water that will always quench every thirst that we have.
We discover the life worth living when we discover the God worth worshiping.
Jesus has brought her back to the true well.
“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.’” (John 4:25)
Ah, so this is where Jesus has been leading her. He has been leading her back to Himself. He isn’t going to leave her looking into the gaping hole of her own need and sinfulness. He is going to leave her looking into the everlasting source of all true life and joy. The real living well of real living water.
She walks right into it. “We will only know the truth when Messiah comes”, she says. “We will trust what He says.”
Jesus replies, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:19-26)
True wellbeing only comes from the one true well.Posted on: June 8, 2018Peter Todd