Thursday, July 3, 2008

Worship in the NT part 2

John 4.4-42 (especially verses 20-24)
In this passage I am dealing with Jesus and his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. After perceiving that Jesus was some kind of prophet, the woman begins to discuss the proper place for worship.

The physical focus of Samaritan worship was on Mount Gerizim, close to the ancient town of Shechem. This is where the “faithful” Samaritans offered sacrifices. Of course there would have been direct tension with Jews of the period who believed the only proper place for sacrifice was Jerusalem. Even though the same word for worship is used as was in the previous post (proskunesai), one cannot disconnect in this passage the proper place with the proper worship. On both Mount Gerizim and on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the place of worship is where sacrifice is offered. I don’t think it is illegitimate in this passage to interchange the words for sacrifice and worship in this passage and do any harm to the meaning and intent of the passage. Tell me what you think:

Our fathers “sacrificed” on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to “sacrifice.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you “sacrifice” to 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 now is, when those offering true sacrifice will sacrifice to the Father in spirit and truth.

Jesus had asserted that the "place" of Jewish worship (the temple) was not going to be around much longer (see Matt. 24.2 and Luke 21.6). Thus, true worship would take place in spirit and truth. The temple's reason for being was the sacrificial system. If, because of the work of Jesus, the sacrificial system was no longer needed, then the temple as a place of worship would no longer be needed.

In this passage, when talking about the place, it is sacrifice and when talking about the attitude, it is worship, which is bowing down and offering allegiance and praise.


matt gallion said...

I think you have a good point when you notice the relation between worship at Jerusalem and temple sacrifice, as those terms would have been deeply related in the mindset of Jesus and the woman.

My question is, How do we "sacrifice" now in "spirit and truth"? What does this look like for me?

billy v said...

My initial reaction to your question is that our sacrifice today is our obedience (Romans 12.1). I will be writing more on that in future posts. It is a great question though, I was scolded by a "worship leader" that Jesus demands to be worshiped in spirit and truth but did not offer up what that meant.

north church said...


I would like to have your thoughts on the relationship of the words worship, sacrifice and obedience.

I am going to start a series probably in September with these topics in mind. I would really like to engage you in a conversation in this. Email may be the best way for that to if you have time