Worship in Truth
Conversation at a Samaritan Well, Part 3

Jesus’ proclamation that true worshipers must worship in truth is the focus of this final article in this series. Once again we’ll glean insight about the meaning of these words from the flow of the conversation Jesus initiated with the woman at the well.

For starters here’s a definition of worship:

“To worship in truth means that we worship God as he has revealed himself. We must not create and worship an image of God fashioned according to our preferences. Genuine worship responds to God’s truthful revelation in his Word.” Mark Roberts, The Worship Bible

John often intertwines the concept of truth with Jesus in his gospel. For example, when Jesus came to Earth he was full of grace and truth (1:14) and he brought grace and truth (1:17). He is the truth (14:6), and it is in knowing the truth that we are set free (8:32). Here in John 4 truth is at the very heart of this conversation.

From our vantage point, we know that to worship in truth places the revealed Jesus as the focus and recipient of our adoration. The Samaritan woman couldn’t have grasped this with the depth afforded to us, but Jesus’ words have an immediate effect on her nonetheless. This effect comes from another angle, the clue to which is more apparent in the Greek text than in most English translations.

When Jesus brings the woman’s history into the open, he responds to her admission that she has no husband with, “You have said this with truth” (v.18). The conversation then moves directly to the subject of true worship. Undoubtedly he intends to connect these two references to truth.

The essence of Jesus' words is this: You have spoken truth by saying you have no husband. Go and get your husband if you want living water to drink, but know that the Father is looking for people who will worship him in truth.

Jesus’ call is to transparency

Jesus sees a person who has slammed shut the door of her heart, and he urges her to come out of hiding and to dare to reveal what is hidden within.

There is something about Jesus that enables the woman to open up to his challenge. Laying aside her fear, she owns up to what lies in her heart and experiences a marvellous freedom as a result. We see this in her transformation as she gathers the villagers and brings them to Jesus, proclaiming that he has told her everything she has ever done.

Meanwhile something marvellous has happened within Jesus as well. His friends return with food to strengthen them after their journey, but Jesus feels no need to eat. “I have food to eat which you do not know,” he says (v.32). Satisfaction in this conversation. A life changed. A woman who has been touched by the Master, never to be the same again. What could be more satisfying than that?

Transparency in my worship

Could it be that Jesus is just as satisfied when I come and open up my heart to him, relinquishing my efforts to hide what lies within my heart? He sees it all just as surely as he saw the woman’s secrets, and the call to transparency is for my benefit, not for his. My willingness to be truthful (and thus transparent) gives him permission to work with what lies within me, however deeply buried it may be.

It might seem scary to be so transparent, but the woman at the well teaches me that there is no need to fear. My secrets--and my heart--are safe with Jesus.

When I worship in truth I fix my focus on Jesus and willingly open my heart to his gaze. When I dare to do this, Jesus is satisfied, for he has found the kind of worshiper he is looking for. And I am set free by the Truth who has come to Earth for the very purpose.

Part 3
Worship in Spirit
Part 4
Hem of His Garment
Spiritual refreshment page

Author's note: I wrote this series of meditations following my a course of study in NT Greek. I drew extensively from the English Standard Version which prioritizes a literal rendering of the original language. I also tried to bring across nuances which are often lost in translation because they make for poor English.


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