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Jesus and the Woman at the well, Where do we worship God? John 4:16 - 26

Updated on June 3, 2014
This mountain is in Utah, it is not Mt. Gerizim.
This mountain is in Utah, it is not Mt. Gerizim.

John 4:16 - 26

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. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

"Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neigher 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 spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

The woman said, "I know that the Messiah" (called Christ)"is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."


I stared at the man sitting across from me. Silence stretched out between us. Time stood still. I could feel the sun on my face, it was past noon. I should be going, but I couldn’t move. His words echoed in my head. “Go call your husband and come back.” It was an innocent statement, an assumption that anyone might make of a woman my age doing this particular chore of collecting water for her household. But I was not like other women. Did he know what he was asking? Which husband was I to call? There had been so many of them. My closet was full of skeletons. I swallowed. Could he hear my heart beating? Sweat broke out on my forehead. I hoped he didn’t notice. Something told me I couldn’t lie to this man, but I didn’t exactly want to tell the truth either. For reasons I couldn’t explain, I wanted him to think well of me. I didn’t want him to know what kind of woman I really was. I had to say something, the truth crafted to hide the facts. “I have no husband.”


I had used this line before. At this point most people dropped it, satisfied to move on, not wanting to get to personal. Today was different, because he was different. I shouldn’t have been so surprised at his answer. After all, our whole conversation had been a little on the bazaar side. But I about had a panic attack when he answered, “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.” Goodness, how could he possibly know that? Was he a prophet? That would explain his odd words. Up until now I had been avoiding the deeper implications of what Jesus was telling me, focusing on the physical. I didn’t understand the undercurrents of what he said and it scared me. Now I was quite ready to talk about spiritual matters, anything to direct the conversation away from my personal life.


I grasped at the first question that popped into my head. Pointing at nearby Mount Gerizim, I blurted out something about worship and where we should do it. “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” It was a common spot of contention between us and the Jews. Sure, both our great ancestors Abraham and Jacob had built alters on our mountain to worship God, but God had directed King Solomon to build the temple in Jerusalem as the place to worship Him. I really wasn’t sure which the proper place to worship was. Not that it mattered; we Samaritans were not welcome in Jerusalem to worship anyway. With our mixed heritage and history, we weren’t good enough. Perhaps this prophet could give me an answer.


He did have an answer for me, and it was not what I expected. Turns out it wasn’t going to be that big of a controversy anymore. “Believe me woman; a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” This surprised me. What did he mean, where both places wrong? I couldn’t imagine worshiping at any other place. He continued, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” I guess the Jews were right. It made sense, in the past; many of our ancestors had come from foreign countries and did not know about God. What they were taught, they mixed with our own beliefs and over the years we had to come to our own conclusions. Most of what we believed was very similar to the Jews and based on the law that Moses gave, but they still would not accept us. We were waiting for a Messiah just like them, but we were hoping the Messiah would help us understand the truth. This prophet seemed to know something about that, his words were very encouraging. “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.” Oh to know the truth! How exciting to be able to worship within my very spirit, without having to worry about where I was. This was almost too good to be true. I wish I could understand it. If only the Messiah would come and explain it clearly. I had to tell this man about the Messiah, so he would understand that I wanted to know the truth. “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” This was our hope; we were just waiting to understand. We looked forward to that day when everything would be explained. You cannot imagine my joy when Jesus answered me, “I who speak to you am he.” With that simple statement, my whole life changed. I believed him and I would never be the same. Leaving my jar I practically ran back to town. I could not wait to tell the others that our salvation was here.


After the woman met with Jesus her life changed so much it was immediatly noticable. Read what this might have looked like in #36 The changed life of the woman at the well.

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