Worship Leads to Witness (Part 2)
Updated: Nov 15
The greatness of God is most clearly seen when the Lord expands his reach and redemption among the nations. When outcasts are brought close and enemies are made friends, the heart of God is leaping with joy. This delight is conveyed when the Psalm writer announces:
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples. (Psalm 96:1-3)
As we continue in part 2 of our series on Worship Leads to Witness, we will explore how Jesus revolutionizes worship from rituals you perform to people you reconcile. Worship declares and lives out that the Lord we serve is a barrier breaking and bridge building God.
Jesus Models the Purpose of Worship
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. (John 4:4-6)
Nearly 2,000 years before Jesus took a drink from this well, Jacob began digging a hole in the crusty soil where he and his family scratched out a living. The back-breaking work became harder still as his pick hit the strata of limestone that sits just below the topsoil in this unforgiving land. Working against the hot sun and dry air, Jacob continued digging deeper and deeper, sending bucket after bucket of stone fragments up to the surface. Months later, at a depth of more than 130 feet, he finally struck what he was after. Up from the cracks came the cold and refreshing water. Jesus is, now, at this very well. There, the Good Shepherd, will have a conversation with a woman whose heart is hard like the limestone Jacob had to dig through. Jesus will carefully tunnel through the layers of pain from her personal sin to the stigma to the labels and social barriers of rejection to uncover that God is seeking her out as a worshiper.
Jesus tunnels through the racial barrier.
Jesus was taking a northward journey from Judea to Galilee. Verse 4 states, “he had to go through Samaria.” It was customary for Jews to go to the east of the Jordan to avoid Samaria. (See the map to the right.) By this time, there have been 400 years of bad blood on every level: creed, class, culture and color. Those in Judea would take three extra days in the desert to walk around Samaria to get to Galilee. (If someone takes three extra days in the desert to avoid you, then you know you are not liked.) To be a Samaritan, in the mind of the Jews, was to be on par with someone who needs an exorcism. When the religious leaders accused Jesus of being a spiritual fraud, they asserted, “surely you are demon possessed and a Samaritan.” (John 8:48) Jesus had to be in Samaria to show that the worshipers God seeks are the outcasts who can be made friends.
Jesus tunnels through class.
What is astonishing is that Jesus goes to this forbidden place to speak to one of its most rejected members--the Samaritan woman. She was as low on the social ladder as you could go.
She was a woman. (In some social circles, at the time, she would be viewed as inferior to a man.)
She had a bad reputation.
She was a promiscuous person.
She was living in sin.
She was most likely not educated.
Verse 6 informs us that the woman was there (with Jesus), apparently to draw water, at noon. Water was usually drawn in the morning or in the early evening when it was cooler. The well was like Tim Hortons, McDonalds or the local restaurant in the morning, where locals meet to catch up and find out what is going on in the community. She was not included. She avoided going to the well when the crowd was there because they talked about her but not to her. Jesus changes that.
Jesus tunnels through rejection.
The account continues:
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:7-10)
Men in her life always wanted something from her. Jesus begins to make known to her that he is there to give her something--"living water." In verses 11-15, Jesus dialogs with the woman to prepare her to understand the spiritual significance of the "living water." Then he suddenly pivots the conversation and tunnels further into her soul:
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. (John 4:16-19)
To say the least, she has a complicated relationship history. Five different marriages. Five different beds. Five different rejections. Her current partner won’t even give her his name. She knows what it means to love and not to receive love in return. The thirst for love in her soul never goes filled. So, the Great Physician scalpels deeper into her heart to address this deeper thirst which has gone unfulfilled for so long. She is needing to quench it with the life-giving, soul-healing, social-transforming worship of God:
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:21-26)
As Jesus mines through the pain of her heart, we will see by her next actions that she embraces Jesus as Messiah. In doing so, this social reject from the wrong race, the wrong class, the wrong reputation becomes the first evangelist for Jesus leading a whole village to encounter the Savior. Amazing!
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. (John 4:28-30)
In this remarkable story, the Samaritan woman is a picture of the worshiper God seeks! Jesus sought her out because her worship would lead to witness.
Worship Leading to Witness
Worship breaks through the barriers of isolation.
This scene with the Samaritan woman is a social critique for today. No matter how destructive the judgments or dehumanizing the labels or high the social fences placed upon us, Christ hammers through each one. Many times in a worship service of gathered believers, there are people are thinking:
"I don’t know if I fit in here."
"I have my doubts Jesus is for people like me."
"I just have too much shame to open my heart to God."
"I just can’t imagine God having a purpose for someone like me."
To those wrestling with these very self-doubts and questions Jesus answers: "You are the very one the Father seeks." We know this because the Son of God goes right to the outcast person in an outcast community to show this is "the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." He is showing that to worship God in the Spirit and truth is to worship a God in the declaration (truth) and action (Spirit) of following a barrier breaking and bridge building Redeemer.
Worship breaks through the barriers that are placed around us.
This woman has beautifully encountered Jesus. She has no righteousness of her own. She has earned or accomplished nothing. In fact, she has been told she is worthless. Here she is completely accepted. Her acceptance by Jesus causes her to love and reach out to those who have rejected her and told her she is worthless.
There are three approaches we can take to the sin in people's live:
Your sin is bad. We will avoid you!
Your sin is good. We will celebrate you!
Your sin doesn’t need to define you. We will love you!
The third is the one Jesus models and commends. In worship we can look to God and open our arms to a Father who takes enemies and outcasts and makes them beloved children who can then express that to others who are outcasts and enemies.
Worship breaks through the barriers we put around others.
Let's conclude by looking at what moves the heart and passion of Jesus the most. Exhausted and fatigued from his journey, the disciples now offer the rabbi much needed food to strengthen him. Look at his response as to what gives him vitality and joy:
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." (John 4:31-35)
Jesus sees the harvest of people yet to know him, barriers to be broken and bridges to be built all across the world. As he sees this, the one who fills others with life is now filled with renewed life as he sees worship that leads to witness.
You can click here to read Worship Leads to Witness (Part 1)
You can click here to read Worship Leads to Witness (Part 3)