John 4:21-24 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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.”
It’s interesting that the woman at the well seems to change the subject. Jesus called her out with respect to her past and present relationships—which led her to see he was no common traveler but a prophet—and then she proceeds to bring up the proper location for worship. The Samaritans believed that Moses commissioned an altar on Mount Gerazim, the mountain of blessing, which was their justification for how and where they worshipped, yet the Jews claimed the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The woman remains in the spiritual conversation but attempts to change the subject from herself to religion in general. Unbelievers will usually be far more comfortable talking about “spirituality” than the condition of their own life and heart.
Jesus didn’t allow her to head down that rabbit hole.
Through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection “Spirit and Truth” became the basis for true worship rather than locations and practices and piety. It would no longer matter where you are (Samaria vs. Jerusalem) nor who you are (Samaritan vs. Jew). To worship in spirit means you are concerned with spiritual realities, not so much with places or outward sacrifices, cleansings, and trappings. To worship in truth means you worship according to the whole counsel of God’s word, especially in light of New Testament revelation. It also means that you come to God in truth, not in pretense or a mere display of spirituality.
Without saying so directly, Jesus kept her spiritual brokenness on the table.
The woman at the well had no escape. Neither her location nor her status as a non-Jew mattered anymore. The conversation was not about religion…it was about her and the man who stood before her. It always comes down to that. People can talk about being raised in the church or in a Christian home, but that’s just about location. They can talk about going to church and even reading the bible, but that’s just about practice. Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). A true Christian worships God in his spirit, no matter where they happen to be. A true Christian worships God in truth, always willing to lay bare their need for Christ. We must have the patience to stay in the conversations with “women at the well” in then hopes that the content will move from the outward to the inward…in spirit and in truth.