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Worship in Spirit and in Truth

5[Jesus] came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

7There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But 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. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

27Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30They went out of the town and were coming to him. . .

39Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:5–30, 39–42)


Jesus, Holy Scripture reveals, IS the Coming One, the One prophesied in the Old Testament who was coming to deliver His people, the One who is called Messiah, the Christ.  From Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, God promised the Savior, the Savior who would crush the head of that serpent of Old, who is Satan.  And this one, our great adversary, the Savior would trample under His feet.  On Calvary is where this happened.  On the cross is where Jesus, the Coming One, the Messiah, the Christ, through death destroyed him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14).  And through His death, Christ released those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:15).

Through His death, Christ released us from our lifetime of bondage to sin.  Because of Christ, the Bible says, you are no longer under the Law, but under graceSin, therefore, shall not have dominion over you, for you are Christ’s (Romans 6:14).  No more do you need fear eternal judgment and hell.  Jesus IS the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).  He is THE sacrifice for your sins and His sacrifice alone cleanses you from ALL of your sins.  God is faithful and just to forgive your sins, all of them.

This means that your sins are not counted against you because of Jesus.   Because of Jesus you are free to serve God and free to love your neighbor as yourself.  Because of Jesus, you need not dwell on your failings and faults.  Because of Jesus, you need not worry whether or not you are in God’s good graces because IN Jesus, you already are.  Such is the Savior you have in the Messiah, the Christ, the One who came into the world through the womb of the virgin and who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification (Isaiah 7:14 || Matthew 1:23; Matthew 16:21; Romans 4:25).

Because Jesus IS the Coming One, because He IS the Messiah, because He is the Christ, you have no reason to doubt that the blessings and kindnesses of the Almighty God are truly yours.  Though your eyes say differently, the Word of the living God gives you the certainty that it cannot be but according to what God says.  In Christ, you are forgiven, even if you don’t feel it, or don’t feel like you have been forgiven.  In Christ, you have God’s peace, even if there be conflict.  In Christ, you have the confidence of God’s love and mercy upon you, even if all is else says otherwise.

These things are so because you don’t save yourself.   You don’t give yourself certainty.  You don’t cleanse yourself of your sin.  You don’t give yourself peace.  And your confidence before God is not self-made.  Where these things do come from you, they don’t come from God, and they won’t last.  But what is from God, where God gives you true peace, forgiveness, certainty, and salvation, there you can be sure that they will last.  And all of these gifts are yours in Jesus, who reveals Himself as the Messiah, the Christ, the Coming One, to that Samaritan woman at the well in today’s Gospel, and who reveals Himself to us today

It is truly extraordinary that our God came in the likeness of sinful man.  He didn’t leave it up to you to clean up your own mess.  He became flesh and blood to take our place under the law in order to redeem us from the curse of the law (Galatians 4:5).  You don’t ascend to Him.  He comes to you.  He comes to you in such a way that you can even approach Him.

As it was for this woman in our text, at first, she didn’t even recognize Him.  She didn’t recognize Him because He didn’t look like anything spectacular.  He looked like a Jewish man of that time, because He was.  But He was also God, but not God revealed in His glory-God concealed in humanity.  You couldn’t tell that Jesus was God just by looking at Him, even as you can’t tell that Jesus is here present, but by His Word.  The woman thought Jesus was just like any other Jew.  And He even asked her for water!

It is astonishing that our Lord would ask a woman for water.  Some would immediately say that Jesus wasn’t God if He had such needs as food and drink.  But this only demonstrates the fact that Jesus was indeed a man, with all the physical needs that are also our own.  We need to eat.  We need to drink.  We need sleep.  Jesus too suffered these bodily necessities.  He humbled Himselftaking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7).  He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

But Jesus asked her for water also with the intention of directing her to things eternal, not only to things temporal.  But as He spoke to her about “living water”, she didn’t get it.  She didn’t get it when Jesus spoke to her about Himself.  She continued seeking earthly kinds of things and not the heavenly.

But isn’t it this way with us, too?  We are yet in the flesh.  And how often we do set our minds on things of the earth and neglect the heavenly things promised us in Christ! (Colossians 3:1-2) We fret and worry so much about life’s circumstances that we fail to see God’s Word and promises right before our eyes.  We feel sad, get frustrated, and become depressed because things aren’t going our way or because things are just so hard and we doubt the very promises of our Lord, or we are tempted to think that God doesn’t care.  We focus on the negatives and bad things and fail to see the blessings of our Lord in the midst of difficult times.  We’re distracted so easily by the here and now that we miss the big picture, the big picture of the eternal, that which is according to what God says, and that which is our sure hope in Jesus.

Like the woman at the well who heard of living water and sought after only earthly water, we hear the words of prosperity and blessing, and we might think that God promises earthly wealth and a worldly kind of happiness.  We hear the words of peace and we might think that God promises an earthly utopia, where everybody just gets along.  We hear the words of forgiveness and we might think that God is ok with sin and that sin is really no big deal.

Truly this is how some even perceive the Christian faith, that it has more to do with earthly kind of things than even heaven itself.  A worldly kind of gospel finds a great following among many today, but it is a gospel that has little to do with the Jesus of the Bible and more to do with feeding the dream for success and earthly contentment.

But THE Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has to do with eternity.  It has to do with contentment in Christ, not in what one does or doesn’t have.  It has to do with how we now stand before God because of Jesus-truly forgiven, our sins not being added to our account, not because our sins are in any way minimized, but because Jesus paid the full price, purchasing us with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has to do with the message of eternal life, not earthly wealth, earthly gain, success, popularity, or acceptance.  The things of the world are passing away, the Bible says, but the Word of the Lord endures forever (1 Peter 1:25).  Because such is the case, your confidence is not based on the what or the how of your circumstances in life, but on Jesus Christ.

The circumstances, conditions, and emotions of our lives constantly change, up the one moment and down the next.  Uncertainty is what we experience.  But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  And we know God’s disposition towards us from day to day, on account of Him: for good, and not for evil; for salvation, and not for condemnation; for help, and not for opposition

Jesus is your Savior.  Salvation is, as our Lord says, from the Jews.  Jesus Himself was a Jew, born of Mary, the very seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 1:2).  And herein is your hope.  You don’t climb a mountain or go to Jerusalem to worship, as did the Samaritans and the Jews.  Nor do you not know who you worship.  In fact, you do.  You do know who you worship because of Him who reveals Himself to you in the Word as the Christ.  And this One reveals to you that He is the Son of the heavenly Father, whose Father is now also your Father.

When Jesus says as He does in our text, 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, Jesus is NOT saying that you worship our Lord how ever you want.  Worship in spirit and truth doesn’t mean this.  Spirit and truth kind of worship is that kind of worship which is according to God’s Word and Will.  And that kind of worship which is according to God’s Word and Will is that kind of worship which has Christ Jesus as it’s center.

At one point in Jesus’ ministry, he had said, Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21).  It is not the one who only thinks that He is worshipping God who truly is, but the one who is actually worshipping God as God wills Himself to be worshiped, that is, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Bible doesn’t talk about a generic god.  Nor does it talk about a god that contradicts himself, or allows inconsistencies to abound.  Any and all who say that all religions worship the same God don’t yet worship the true God.  And any and all who say that Jews and Muslims worship the true God don’t yet know the true God, for the true God is He who does not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11).  The true God has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; not three gods, but one God; three persons, yet one God.

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is indeed a mystery, but a mystery which you believe just the same.  And you believe it because God reveals it to you in His Word.  Therefore are you glad and bold to confess it.  And also are you glad and bold to confess God’s Son, Jesus, for Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who confesses the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:22, 23).

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.   He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.   And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.   He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:9-12)

We worship our Lord God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, wherever we are, we worship, not only on Sunday, but throughout the week.  We confess Christ, seek forgiveness of sins from Him, and seek everlasting life from Him.  And because we do, we also gather together with one another to this place, to know without a shadow of a doubt, that our God is for us, that Jesus is for you your Savior.

Worship in spirit and in truth is not about us doing for God.  It is rather seeking from God  mercy and forgiveness, life and salvation—through His Son.  Worship in spirit and in truth is looking to Jesus.  It is believing Jesus and trusting His Word and promise.  From this, all else will follow.  Amen.


10. If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you: Give Me a drink! you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.[1]

“I would be happier to reverse the order and give you a drink. In fact, this is the reason for My presence here. I am asking for a drink to quench My physical thirst that I might have occasion to give you a drink. If you only realized what a gift is now to be found on earth, you would ask Me for it, and I would give you a drink that would taste better than this water. It is of the utmost importance to recognize this gift and to know Him who gives it. But neither the gift nor the Giver is known.” This is also our lament—and it will eternally remain so—that the schismatic spirits do not recognize the gift even when exhorted to do so; and the great multitude also despises this ineffably precious treasure and fails to recognize the Giver of this gift. In fact, we too, who claim to be saints, pay it no heed and do not fully appreciate the value of this treasure offered to us through the Gospel. My dear friend, how few there are among us who esteem this as a genuine treasure, as an eternal gem, as everlasting life! There must be some, however, who will hazard life and limb for it. In Matt. 13 we read of a man who found a pearl in a field. He sold all his possessions in order to buy pearl and field (Matt. 13:45–46). Thus we find many who are willing to endure tortures because of it; they, too, will receive the drink. But the other crowd says flippantly: “What do I care about it?” You will find a hundred thousand people who regard silver mined from the earth as a real treasure. They will not shrink from laboring night and day to acquire such a perishable treasure.

Would to God that we could gradually train our hearts to believe that the preacher’s words are God’s Word and that the man addressing us is a scholar and a king.20 As a matter of fact, it is not an angel or a hundred thousand angels but the Divine Majesty Himself that is preaching there. To be sure, I do not hear this with my ears or see it with my eyes; all I hear is the voice of the preacher, or of my brother or father, and I behold only a man before me. But I view the picture correctly if I add that the voice and words of father or pastor are not his own words and doctrine but those of our Lord and God. It is not a prince, a king, or an archangel whom I hear; it is He who declares that He is able to dispense the water of eternal life. If we could believe this, we would be content indeed. However, a fault which is manifest throughout the world and also in us is that we fail to recognize the gift and its Giver. I, too, am not at all perfect in this respect; my faith is not as profound and strong as I should like to have it. Flesh and blood are an impediment. They merely behold the person of the pastor and brother and hear only the voice of the father. They cannot be induced to say: “When I hear the Word, I hear a peal of thunder, and I see the whole world filled with lightning.” No, we cannot be brought to do that, and this is most deplorable. Flesh and blood are at fault. They refuse to regard the oral Word and the ministry as a treasure costlier and better than heaven and earth. People generally think: “If I had an opportunity to hear God speak in person, I would run my feet bloody.” This is why people in times past flocked to the Oak, to Aachen, and to the Grym Valley.21 Because the people believed that Mary would help them in these places, they all hurried there. If someone at that time had announced: “I know of a place in the world where God speaks and anyone can hear God there”; if I had gone there and seen and heard a poor pastor baptizing and preaching, and if I had been assured: “This is the place; here God is speaking through the voice of the preacher who brings God’s Word”—I would have said: “Well, I have been duped! I see only a pastor.” We should like to have God speak to us in His majesty. But I advise you not to run hither and yon for this. I suppose we could learn how people would run if God addressed them in His majesty. This is what happened on Mt. Sinai, where only the angels spoke and yet the mountain was wrapped in smoke and quaked. But you now have the Word of God in church, in books, in your home; and this is God’s Word as surely as if God Himself were speaking to you.

Christ says: “You do not know the gift.” We recognize neither the Word nor the Person of Christ, but we take offense at His humble and weak humanity. When God wants to speak and deal with us, He does not avail Himself of an angel but of parents, of the pastor, or of my neighbor. This puzzles and blinds me so that I fail to recognize God, who is conversing with me through the person of the pastor or father. This prompts the Lord Christ to say in the text: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ then I would not be obliged to run after you and beg for a drink. You would run after Me and ask Me for the living water. But since you do not know the gift and do not recognize Him who is speaking with you, you despise Me.” Even if Christ did no more than greet us, it would be a treasure above all treasures; it would be honor and treasure enough. He has another treasure in store for us, however, which He reveals when He brings us forgiveness of sin and redemption from death, devil, and hell, when He transforms us into heavenly people and illumines our hearts. We can never express the value of this treasure adequately. We shall always fall short of recognizing it fully and of esteeming it as we really and truly should.

We should mark well that this is spoken to us too. If we recognized this gift, we would receive water in which the Holy Spirit is given to us. By God’s grace we have at least begun to recognize God’s gift and the Teacher. If we had not, I would not be able to teach you. Then you would fare as you did in the papacy, where you were told: “Run hither and yon!” However, thus far we have received only the first fruits and not the tithe.22 It is just beginning to dawn on us that God’s speaking to us is an inexpressibly precious gift and that we are honored to be God’s pupils and disciples. This is what is meant by knowing the nature of the gift and the person of the Doctor and Teacher. We and our hearers are just beginning to recognize that it is not a man we are listening to, but that it is God who is telling us things that contain an everlasting treasure. Therefore we are told again and again that we cannot speak about this subject enough; we must be like a stammering child. We cannot fathom what an incomprehensibly great treasure we possess in the divine Word. Nor do we really understand who this Person addressing us is or how excellent and exalted this Person is. If we did, it would impel us to boast of being followers, not of a king or of an emperor but of God. People in the world are proud if they have a gracious lord, or if they are privileged to see a prince; it means much to them to stand in his presence and hear him speak. Now it is true that it is a treasure to have a gracious lord or to be a prince’s counselor. But look at the glory of the man who can say: “I am God’s pupil; I hear Him speak —not an angel, not a pastor or a prince, but God Himself. I am His counselor.” For God says: “My message is an excellent gift, and by comparison the world’s riches and glory are nothing but filth.”

My dear friend, regard it as a real treasure that God speaks into your physical ear.23 The only thing that detracts from this gift is our deficient knowledge of it. To be sure, I do hear the sermon; however, I am wont to ask: “Who is speaking?” The pastor? By no means! You do not hear the pastor. Of course, the voice is his, but the words he employs are really spoken by my God. Therefore I must hold the Word of God in high esteem that I may become an apt pupil of the Word. If we looked upon it as the Word of God, we would be glad to go to church, to listen to the sermon, and to pay attention to the precious Word. There we would hear Christ say: “Give Me a drink!” But since we do not honor the Word of God or show any interest in our own salvation, we do not hear the Word. In fact, we do not enjoy listening to any preacher unless he is gifted with a good and clear voice. If you look more at the pastor than at God; if you do not see God’s person but merely gape to see whether the pastor is learned and skilled, whether he has good diction and articulates distinctly—then you have already become half a Jacob.24 For a poor speaker may speak the Word of God just as well as he who is endowed with eloquence.

[1]Martin Luther, vol. 22, Luther’s Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1957).

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