God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.Gospel of John 4:24
The Gospel of John is not meant to be a detailed, factual account of the ministry of Jesus — it is a series of allegories. Let’s look at the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4).
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. Now Jacob’s well was there.
Samaria was a region north of Jerusalem which had separated itself from Judeans hundreds of years prior. Relations were not good between Samaria and Judeans (Jews) — there had been several wars, and each stood aside while the other had been conquered by outside forces (Assyria and Babylonia).
However, the Samaritans were decedents of the original patriarchs of Judea, that is: Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. Thus, Jacob’s “well” (source) was there in Samaria, as well as in Judea.
and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
To understand this, you need to refer to Genesis 24, where Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for his son by sending him to a well and asking women that stop by to give him a drink. Women would come to the well during the day to draw water for the family; so, it was a good place to meet women. In this story, Jesus is reenacting the scenario from Genesis. He is “wooing” the non-Jews, explaining why he’s the best choice of a husband.
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.
Superficially, the woman in the story is wondering why a Jew is looking for a Samaritan wife. Allegorically, this opens up the line of thought that Jesus’ message was not just for the Jews.
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.
Obviously, the “living water” is the Spirit of God. God’s son and servant is here to bring the Spirit of God to everyone, “even” the Samaritans (who were despised by the Jews).
The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
The woman asks Jesus essentially the same question he keeps getting from the Pharisees: What makes you so special? How can you draw from the Spirit of God, when you don’t have the tools (authority)?
Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
Jacob was the beginning of the ancestral line — who are you to say you are better than he?
Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 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.
You can continue doing the rituals of your forefathers, and you will forever be thirsty (spiritually empty). But, take from the Spirit of God as I have and you will forever be satiated.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
Okay, that sounds great — give me some!
Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband.
Back to the mating ritual — are you already spoken for? Superficially, she says, I am still searching for a husband (the assumption here of course is that any unmarried woman would be looking for a husband). Allegorically, Samaria is still searching for God.
Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
People usually take this to be an moral admonishment — the woman has had five husbands and is currently living with a man who is not her husband (which is bad). But instead, the five husbands are a reference to this quote from II Kings:
And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.2 Kings 7:24
You (Samaria) have been “mingled” (so-to-speak) with five other cultures previously, and at the moment you are dominated (not consummated) by the Roman culture.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
Okay, she says, you’re pretty smart. But don’t Jews insist that we worship at their Temple in Jerusalem?
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 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.
God is not on a mountain and not in a temple — worship God as spirit and truth.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Pretty much self-explanatory!
How different this story seems when read as an allegory. Like Jesus’ parables, there is the surface story and then the deeper one.
IMAGE SOURCE: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lothal_-_ancient_well.jpg ATTRIBUTION: Bernard Gagnon [CC BY-SA 3.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]