A Conversation About Worship

Title: A Conversation About Worship

Bible Book: John 4 : 1-42

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Worship



In recent months, we have been looking periodically at the theme of “Worship” in our Sunday morning services.

We have dealt with this subject by looking at “The Concept Of Worship” from Genesis 22. We’ve considered “A Call To Worship” in Exodus 34, and “Some Components Of Worship In Isaiah 6.” We saw “The Congregation That Worships” from 2 Chronicles 29. And then we looked at Psalm 95 at “The Callousness Of Worship.”

This morning, it’s on my heart to deal with John chapter 4 where we find “A Conversation About Worship.”

Jeff Larson, who publishes an e-newsletter called “The Back Pew,” recently wrote…

A few years ago I attended a charismatic church where there was dance, and banners waved. One young man stood off to the side at the front of the church waving 2 red flags while he worshipped, while another pretty young woman waved ribbons. The guy with the red flags looked to me like he was landing crop dusters, while in contrast the young lady appears to be communicating with angels. Both worshippers were heartfelt but worshipped in a charismatic manner beyond my fencepost stiff comfort zone.

My point is… While worship can be an outward expression, it must be the expression of our hearts. The most obvious irony in the worship arena is that my passion here pales in comparison to the football arena. Sweaty palms, heart racing, exhilaration and exasperation describe my passion for my ‘blessed’ Green Bay Packers, while in contrast my mind sometimes wanders in church. … I even own a cheese-head, a Packers jersey, and a poster in my office that says, ‘Sure there’s more to life than football, but not much.’ I am not embarrassed to raise my hands, pump my fist, and cheer and jeer loudly for my team through the TV set. I think I have even cried tears of joy during important games. In contrast, wearing a ‘Yay God’ Jersey, a ‘Halo-head,’ or a ‘Jesus is #1’ foam finger to church would be a bit tacky.

With regard to my ‘stiff as a fencepost worship,’ I am making progress. I currently worship at a Baptist church where the songs have words like ‘Lord I lift up my hands to worship you’, but if I look  at the congregation, there may be two hands raised. One of these hands belongs to my wife and the other hand is from someone who simply has a question. So I boldly step out of my comfort zone and raise one hand … and I only pray that they don’t prompt us to clap to the beat of the songs Because I also have no sense of rhythm … and I now have one hand in the air. … This week I even completed my first ‘Double’ by lifting both hands … and the crowd went wild. (Not really, but…)

We Have A God That Deserves Our Passionate Worship, and God is pleased by this sincere worship. … Raise your hands or don’t, but always Worship God With All Your Hearts!

There is a lot of talk about worship these days. But the conversations usually emphasize style more than substance. And too many people are interested in arguing about the subject of worship rather than adoring the object of worship – Almighty God.

In John 4, when the woman of Samaria brought up the subject of worship, she did so in order to divert attention away from the problems of her own heart. But Jesus as the Master Communicator was   able to use even the subject of worship to shed light on her greatest need, which was salvation.

This conversation about worship is only one element of Jesus’ encounter with this woman. When we look at the big picture…

I. We See The Two Involved In This Conversation

A. Let’s Notice The Savior

1. Consider The Savior’s Departure

(John 4:1-3) When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, {2} (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) {3} He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.

2. Consider The Savior’s Destination

(John 4:4-6) And he must needs go through Samaria. {5} Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. {6} Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.

Sychar is probably the same as Shechem. It was a place about 30 miles north of Jerusalem. The name Sychar either means liar, drunkard, or end. Arthur Pink says that “The ‘needs-be’ was a moral and not a geographical one.”

Wiersbe says…

Because the Pharisees were trying to incite competition between Jesus and John the Baptist (John 3:25-30), Jesus left Judea and started north for Galilee. He could have taken one of three possible routes: along the coast, across the Jordan and up through Perea, or straight through Samaria.

Orthodox Jews avoided Samaria because there was a longstanding, deep-seated hatred between them and the Samaritans.

B. Let’s Notice The Samaritan

1. There Was The Racial Factor In Her Life

Cf. 2 Kings 17:32,33,41; Ezra 4:1-3

(John 4:7-9) There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. {8} (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) {9} Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

Wiersbe explains that…

The Samaritans were a mixed race, part Jew and part Gentile, that grew out of the Assyrian captivity  of the ten northern tribes in 727 B.C. Rejected by the Jews because they could not prove their genealogy, the Samaritans established their own temple and religious services on Mt. Gerizim. This only fanned the fires of prejudice. So intense was their dislike of the Samaritans that some of the Pharisees prayed that no Samaritan would be raised in the resurrection! When His enemies wanted to call Jesus an insulting name, they called Him a Samaritan (John 8:48).

In that day, it was not considered proper for any man, especially a rabbi, to speak in public to a strange woman (John 4:27). But our Lord set social customs aside because a soul’s eternal salvation was at stake. It certainly surprised her when He asked for a drink of water. … The information in John’s parenthesis at the end of John 4:9 was for the benefit of his Gentile readers. Since the disciples had gone into the city to purchase food, it is obvious that the Jews did have some “dealings” with the Samaritans; so John was not trying to exaggerate. The phrase can be translated “ask no favors from the Samaritans” or “use no vessels in common with the Samaritans.” Why would Jesus, a Jew, want to use her “Polluted” vessel to get a drink of water?

2. There Were The Relational Failures In Her Life

(John 4:15-18) The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. {16} Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. {17} The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: {18} For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

Some think that the “sixth hour” in verse 6 refers to the noon hour, which would have been a strange time for an unaccompanied woman to come draw water. But perhaps she had been shunned by the other women of Sychar so that she had to come alone to draw water. It’s interesting in verse 28 that she brought word back about Jesus to “the men.” Because of her tainted background, this woman has sometimes been called “The Bad Samaritan.”

Arthur Pink points out some interesting contrasts between John 3 and John 4…

First, in John 3 we have “a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus:” in John 4 it is an unnamed woman that is before us.
Second, the former was a man of rank, a “Master of Israel:” the latter was a woman of the lower ranks, for she came “to draw water.”
Third, the one was a favored Jew: the other was a despised Samaritan.
Fourth, Nicodemus was a man of high reputation, a member of the Sanhedrin: the one with whom Christ dealt in John 4 was a woman of dissolute habits.
Fifth, Nicodemus sought out Christ: here Christ seeks out the woman.
Sixth, Nicodemus came to Christ “by night:” Christ speaks to the woman at mid-day.
Seventh, to the self-righteous Pharisee Christ said, “Ye must be born again:” to this sinner of the Gentiles He tells of “the gift of God.”

II. We See The Topics Included In This Conversation

A. They Talked About A Drink Of Water

1. He Spoke To Her Of Living Water

(John 4:10) Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary says…

“Living water” simply meant “fresh” or “flowing” as opposed to stagnant or well water, but given John’s propensity for double meanings (see 3:5), here the term may also mean “water of life.”

2. He Spoke To Her Of Lasting Water

(John 4:13-15) Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: {14} But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. {15} The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.

B. They Talked About The Dimensions Of Worship

1. She Had An Interest In Worship

(John 4:19-20) The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. {20} Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

The mountain of which she speaks is Mount Gerizim close to Sychar where the Samaritans had built their own temple in defiance of the one at Jerusalem.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary says…

Mount Gerizim, the Samaritans’ holy site equivalent to Judaism’s Jerusalem, was in full view of Jacob’s well. She uses the past tense for “worship” precisely because of her continuing consciousness of Jews’ and Samaritans’ racial separation: roughly two centuries before, the Jewish king had obliterated the Samaritan temple on that mountain, and it had remained in ruins ever since. Samaritans mocked the Jewish holy site and once, under cover of night, even sought to defile the Jerusalem temple. Jews similarly ridiculed Mount Gerizim.

Adam Clarke indicates that it was Sanballat that had built the temple on Mount Gerizim. Arthur Pink said…

There is little doubt that this woman raised the subject of worship at this stage for the purpose of diverting a theme of conversation which was far from agreeable or creditable to her.

2. She Had An Ignorance Of Worship

(John 4:21-24) Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. {22} Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. {23} But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. {24} God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Arthur Pink goes on to say…

The Lord, in a very brief word, settled the disputed point — the Samaritans were wrong, the Jews right; the former were ignorant, the latter well instructed. Christ then added a reason to what He had just said — “for salvation is of the Jews.” We take it that “salvation” here is equivalent to “the Savior,” that is, the Messiah.

To “worship in spirit,” is to worship spiritually; to “worship in truth,” is to worship truly. They are not two different kinds of worship, but two aspects of the same worship. To worship spiritually is the opposite of mere external rites which pertained to the flesh; instead, it is to give to God the homage of an enlightened mind and an affectionate heart. To worship Him truly is to worship Him according to the Truth, in a manner suited to the revelation He has made of Himself; and, no doubt, it also carries with it the force of worshipping truly, not in pretense, but sincerely.

III. We See The Transformation Inspired By This Conversation

1. She Was Changed

In Her Discernment

She now sees Him not just as “a prophet” but as “the prophet.”

2. In Her Desire

She left her waterpot and walked away with the well.

Arthur Pink said…

At last this poor soul has been driven from every false refuge, and now she is ready for a revealed Savior. She is through with her prevarication and procrastinations. She had asked “How?”, and Christ had graciously answered her. She had inquired “Whence?”, and had received a kindly reply. She had said, “Where?”, and this difficulty had been disposed of too. And now her questions ceased.

She speaks with greater confidence and assurance — ‘I know that Messias cometh.” This was tantamount to saying, “I want Christ.”

The IVP Bible Background Commentary

Later Samaritan documents explain the Samaritan concept of a Messiah: the Taheb, or restorer, was a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-18).

(from: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

B. Sychar Was Changed vs. 35-42

1. They Had A Harvest Of Souls At Sychar

(John 4:35) Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

I am of the persuasion that Jesus made this statement right about the time the men of the city were coming out to Him. If that was the case, He is possibly directing the attention of the disciples to the souls of Sychar as He mentions the “harvest.”

2. They Had A Heart For The Savior At Sychar

(John 4:39-42) And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. {40} So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. {41} And many more believed because of his own word; {42} And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

Cf. (Matthew 10:5) These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:

Thus it was the pure grace of God that Jesus came to Sychar.


In a volume called “The Complete Book of Hymns,” William and Ardythe Petersen wrote…

During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Cleavant Derricks was pastor of a small African- American church in Alabama. “Rev,” as everyone liked to call him, wrote songs, and while his church members loved to sing them, he didn’t think they would be of any interest to anyone else.

The church needed new hymnals because the ones it had were ragged and torn, and some had disappeared, as hymnals sometimes do. So “Rev” found the name and address of the publisher in Dallas and decided to see the publisher about getting some more hymnbooks. Of course, he didn’t have any money, but some of his church members encouraged him to take some of his songs with him. So he did.

The publisher wasn’t excited about most of Rev’s songs, but there were two that merited a closer look. When the publisher asked him what he wanted in return for the two songs, he said he thought that fifty hymnals would be fair. So Rev went home with fifty new hymnals, and the publisher got the rights to “Just a Little Talk with Jesus.” Within three years, it had become one of America’s most beloved southern gospel songs.

This could have been the theme song of the woman of Samaria… I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in

And then a little light from heaven filled my soul

It bathed my heart in love and wrote my name above And just a little talk with Jesus made me whole


Now let us have a little talk with Jesus Let us tell Him all about our troubles He will hear our faintest cry

He will answer by and by

Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning And you know a little fire is burning

You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right

Sometimes my path seems dreary without a ray of cheer And then the cloud about me hides the light of day

The mists in me rise and hide the stormy skies But just a little talk with Jesus clears the way


I may have doubts and fears, my eyes be filled with tears But Jesus is a friend who watches day and night

I go to Him in prayer, He knows my every care And just a little talk with Jesus makes it right

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