John 4: 1-42 – Worship in Spirit and in Truth

The Samaritan woman takes the initiative and converses about “worship”. Her concern is centred on the “place” of worship: Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the central worshipping place of Jews. Whereas, Samaritans considered “Gerizim” as the central worshipping place (Deut 12: 1-14; 27: 4-8). Both claimed that their place was authentic one for worship. But Jesus in his reply, takes her attention from “Where” to “How”. Hence “Jerusalem” or “Gerizim” is insignificant. But Jesus asserts that in the salvation history Jews as the chosen people have a special role to play. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (Jn 4: 22). However, Jesus does not approve the worship of Jews but demands transcending the same. Jesus contrasts the worship in Jerusalem and worship in Gerizim with the worship “in Spirit and truth” (Jn 4: 23).

There is only one preposition (“in”) for two nouns (Spirit and truth). It can be understood as “Spirit of truth” as well. God is the truth. Jesus if the truth (Jn 14: 6) as Jesus reveals the truth of the Father. The Spirit refers to the Spirit of Jesus. Jesus is the Spirit who will dwell in the disciples after the resurrection (Jn 14: 15-17). So the expression “in Spirit and truth” should not be interpreted as spiritual worship or purely internal worship. “Spirit” does not refer to human spirit but to “the Spirit of God”. Hence, as Jesus is the one who reveals the truth of the Father and who is the Spirit of the Father, we can authentically worship him only in and through Jesus. Authentic worship of the Father means believing and accepting Jesus as the revelation of the Father and the revealer of the Father and worship God with Jesus and having the attitudes of Jesus. Such worship implies the conformity of one’s interiority to that of Jesus (Jer 31: 31ff; Ex 36: 26).

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