In Spirit and Truth

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Imagine with me the scene. It’s high noon on a hot day outside the Samaritan village of Sychar. The sun is directly overhead, beating down on the head of a woman who is carrying a large, heavy water jar on her shoulder. She is making her way along a well-worn path that leads out of the town toward a well, which, according to tradition, had been dug long ago by Jacob himself.

The other women of the village have already come and gone by this time. It was the practice of most in those days to come to the well in the early morning when it was cooler. Hauling water was hot, tiring work, and not something you wanted to do in the heat of the day. Besides being the most practical time to fetch water, the early morning trip to the well was also an important social time for the women of the village. Most mornings they could be seen walking in groups along the path out to the well, and once there they would join with other women – friends, neighbors and relatives- to talk and laugh, swap stories, and ask how one another was doing.

But it was at the noon hour- in the heat of the day- and she was all by herself when this woman made her way out to the well. She had waited until a time when she was sure nobody else would be there. You see, she wouldn’t have been welcome earlier. Instead of laughter and chit-chat there would have been an icy silence and a cold shoulder. In the small town of Sychar she was a notorious sinner- an infamous person. Although not Jews exactly, the Samaritans held to a similar religion that was every bit as legalistic and judgmental. This woman was living with a man who was not her husband. She had been married five times before, but all five marriages had failed, and in a small town like Sychar all the sins that she had committed and also those that had been committed against her were well-known and had made her an object of public ridicule and shame.

As she rounded a bend in the path and the well came into view she saw that she would not have the place all to herself as she had hoped. There was a man, and judging by his dress and overall appearance, a Jewish man, who was resting in the shade next to the well.

The man, of course, was Jesus. He was all by himself because his disciples had gone into town to see if they could get some food.

As the woman begins to draw water from the well she is surprised when Jesus begins speaking to her. He asked her to give him a drink. The woman didn’t know who Jesus was, of course. To her He was just a Jewish man passing through, and Jews and Samaritans didn’t mix. Additionally it was unusual for a man to even speak to her, a woman. His request for a drink, was a serious breach of rigid social custom and a marked departure from the longstanding animosity that existed between these two groups.

What follows is a very interesting and weighty exchange between a woman who has no idea who she is talking to and a man, Jesus, who knows her better even than she knows herself. We find this exchange in the first half of John 4. Jesus will spend much of the conversation explaining to the woman who He is, the living water and the Savior of the World, and also that He knows who she is, a sinner with a deep soul thirst and someone in need of a Savior. However, tucked away in the midst of their exchange Jesus will tell the woman that the Father is seeking true worshippers who worship Him in spirit and in truth. What does it mean to be a true worshipper? And what exactly does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth? These are the questions we seek to answer as we worship God through the Study of His Word.