“Jesus told her, ‘Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…. But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth'” (John 4:21-24, CSB).
Mount Gerizim was the Old Testament location where God was to pronounce blessing on the Jewish people upon entering the promised land: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim the blessing at Mount Gerizim and the curse at Mount Ebal…. When you possess it and settle in it, be careful to follow all the statutes and ordinances I set before you today” (Deuteronomy 11:29, CSB). This ceremony was solemnly performed after the Israelites began to take possession of the promised land (see Joshua 8:30-35).
During Jesus’ time Samaritanism was alienated from Judaism. This alienation had evolved over many centuries starting with the division of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms and the bad influence of evil kings in the northern kingdom. The conquest of Israel (northern kingdom) by Assyria and the resulting importation of foreign colonists greatly modified the Jewish religion in that region.
The multi-cultural Samaritan community was opposed during the post-captivity re-settlement led by Ezra, Nehemiah and later Jewish leaders. The building of a rival temple on Mount Gerizim around 450 B.C. and the later destruction of the Samaritan temple by Jewish leaders in 110 B.C. demonstrated the historic antagonism between Jews and Samaritans.
The Samaritans, who had their own unique copy of the first five books of the Bible and their own unique system of worship, identified Mount Gerizim near Shechem as the place for the altar to sacrifice to God while Jews held that God chose Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
When the Samaritan woman’s lifestyle was challenged by Jesus as they conversed by Jacob’s well, she concluded He must be a prophet and decided to argue religion with Him. She maintained that the Samaritan worship of God was true worship because Samaritan worship was located at Mount Gerizim.
The all-familiar mantra of real estate agents is, “Location, Location, Location.” It means the location of a property matters because its value may increase or decrease based primarily on its location. In this story the Samaritan woman made this same argument except in reference to worshiping God–that it matters where you worship God
Jesus rejected the notion that the location of worship–whether on Mount Gerizim or Mount Zion–mattered to God. Because God is Spirit, true worship can only take place when God is worshiped in Spirit and truth.
While the woman of the well argued “Location, Location, Location,” Jesus proclaimed “Spirit, Spirit, Spirit!”
It wasn’t the place where you worshiped God that mattered. It was the condition of your heart when you worshiped God that was important.
When the Holy Spirit dwells in worshipers, He awakens an understanding of God’s splendor and salvation and stirs us to rejoice and give thanks. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to understand and embrace the truth of the revelation of God embodied in Jesus Christ and provided through Scripture.
In other words, true worship occurs when people who are filled with the Holy Spirit live their lives in obedience to Christ and rejoice in the truth of His salvation.
Spirit and truth worship isn’t based on experiencing God in a certain place, rather it’s experiencing God in the heart of the worshiper through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
It’s worship that is anywhere, anytime. It’s worship that is everywhere, all the time.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. (Romans 12:1, CSB)