The Third Sunday in Lent, March 15, 2020 (John 4:5-26)
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 (v. 23).
Interestingly it was to a Samaritan woman that Jesus most clearly identified himself as the Christ. She, as a Samaritan, knew that the Christ was coming (although the Samaritans had a different view of the Christ than the Jews), and Jesus states plainly that He, the one speaking with her, is that very Christ, the Messiah who the woman says will declare all things to “us”.
The Samaritans believed that true worship occurred on Mount Gerizim, and the Jews believed it was at the Temple in Jerusalem. Up until the Christ, the Jews were correct, true worship was at the Temple in Jerusalem. In the Christ, however, worship would no longer be associated with a specific location (the Jewish Temple). Salvation is indeed from the Jews (v. 22), but now that the Savior-Christ has arrived, worship would no longer be associated with Jerusalem, nor with the Temple that God directed the Jews to erect there, nor uniquely with the Jewish people. Salvation accomplished in the Christ stretches such concepts beyond any Old Testament worship realities.
Jerusalem, the Jewish race and the Jewish Temple were earthly, physical realities. They were important, but were mere shadows of the ultimate reality (Col. 2:16,17). In the Christ, true worshipers will no longer need to go to Jerusalem to worship. It will no longer be a necessity for worshipers to be Jewish. There will no longer be a need for a physical temple in Jerusalem.
There will indeed be a physical reality to heaven. We will rise with physical (albeit immortal) bodies, and there will be a “new” earth—a physical reality; yet there will be a spiritual reality to such things, even as St. Paul describes our resurrected bodies as “spiritual bodies”—though they will have been physically raised from the graves (1 Cor. 15:42-44). All of this is established because of the physical Christ, and through Him our current earthly realities have been elevated to a truly spiritual level. The earthly Jerusalem has been superseded, for in Christ Jerusalem above, she is our mother (Gal. 4:26). God’s people are no longer a group physically descended from Abraham; they are now those in Christ, for if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring (Gal. 3:29). And the Jewish Temple is now Christ Himself, for He avowed, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up (John 2:19); and one with Him stand His people as the Temple of God.
So now the worship of the Father is no longer by only Jews at the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Now, in the Christ, God’s people of all nations worship Him in spirit and truth. God’s’ people worship the Father not with mere earthly, “fleshly” regulations, but with spiritual (yet tangible) realities that are actually linked with God through the Christ. The work of the priests in the Temple at Jerusalem did not directly link people to and through the Christ. The sacred meals and the holy washings associated with the Jerusalem Temple were preparatory regulations, pointing forward to a time when worship would be in spirit and in truth.
Now Baptism, Holy Communion and the preaching of the Word of Christ are truly direct spiritual links to God. Christ’s death fulfilled all that the Old Testament worship elements were pointing to. Now worship no longer needs such Old Testament shadows, for worship after Christ’s resurrection ascends to God through His Christ. To worship with the New Testament Word and Sacraments is to worship in spirit and truth. Such worship is directly linked to God—who is spirit—by the physically crucified and risen Christ.