There are certain goals in life that have no shortcuts but are totally worth it. Listen in to a really awkward conversation Jesus had about this topic.
If anything, it’s our surrounding culture that brainwashes us, persuading us in a thousand subtle ways that the present world is the only one there is. This is seldom argued. Rather, a mood is created in which it seems so much easier to go with the flow. That’s what happens in brainwashing. What the gospel does is to administer a sharp jolt, to shine a bright light, to kick-start the brain, and the moral sensibility, into working properly for the first time. Often, when this begins to happen, the reaction is just like it was with the woman of Samaria. Intrigued by Jesus’ offer of ‘living water’, she asks to have some—not realizing that if you want to take Jesus up on his offer of running, pure water, bubbling up inside you, you will have to get rid of the stale, mouldy, stagnant water you’ve been living off all this time. In her case it was her married life—or rather, her unmarried life. Jesus saw straight to the heart of what was going on. (Remember how he did the same to Nathanael (1:47–49), with a similar result?) The woman has had a life composed of one emotional upheaval after another, with enough husbands coming and going to keep all the gossips in the village chattering for weeks. We assume that her various marriages ended in divorce, whether legal or informal, and not with the death of the men in question. We don’t know whether she was equally sinned against as sinning. We don’t know what emotional traumas in her background may have made it harder for her to form lasting emotional bonds, though it seems as though the traumas she was at least partly responsible for will have made it harder and harder for her each time. But she knew her life was in a mess, and she knew that Jesus knew. Her reaction to this is a classic example of what every pastor and evangelist knows only too well. Put your finger on the sore spot, and people will at once start talking about something else. And the best subject for distracting attention from morality is, of course, religion.
– N.T. Wright
21. Woman, believe me. In the first part of this reply, he briefly sets aside the ceremonial worship which had been appointed under the Law; for when he says that the hour is at hand when there shall be no peculiar and fixed place for worship, he means that what Moses delivered was only for a time, and that the time was now approaching when the partition-wall (Eph. 2:14) should be thrown down. In this manner he extends the worship of God far beyond its former narrow limits, that the Samaritans might become partakers of it. The hour cometh. He uses the present tense instead of the future; but the meaning is, that the repeal of the Law is already at hand, so far as relates to the Temple, and Priesthood, and other outward ceremonies. By calling God Father, he seems indirectly to contrast Him with the Fathers whom the woman had mentioned, and to convey this instruction, that God will be a common Father to all, so that he will be generally worshipped without distinction of places or nations. – John Calvin
Jesus indicates that the debate between Gerizim and Jerusalem is only marginally important anyway since both places will soon be obsolete (4:21).In 2:19–22 we already heard a hint of this when Jesus mentioned destroying “this temple” and John immediately explained that Jesus was referring to the temple of “his body.” Thus Jesus’ body (the locale of God’s presence, 1:14) and the temple share similar fates, or at least interpret one another. The NIV obscures an important word here when Jesus says, “The hour [hora; NIV time] is coming. . . .” We met the theological use of this word initially in 2:4 and learned that it refers to “the hour” of Jesus’ glorification (in John, his death and resurrection). Hence a cataclysmic change will occur in worship when Jesus comes to the cross, offering himself as sacrifice. Finally, Jesus defines carefully what is coming and what is even now dawning on earth (4:23–24). Worship in “spirit and truth” (v. 23) is the key phrase that controls what Jesus means and is no doubt tied to Jesus’ affirmation that “God is spirit” (v. 24). This is not merely a commonplace explanation about the incorporeality of God. Jesus is not speaking about metaphysics. Rather, he is describing something of the dynamic and life-giving character of God. As in 3:8, this God cannot be apprehended, but his effects cannot be denied. Just as “God is love” or “God is light,” so “God is spirit.” These describe the ways God reveals himself to and impacts men and women in our world.22 Therefore “worship in spirit” does not refer to “the human spirit.”23 It is worship that is dynamically animated by God’s Holy Spirit. But it is more. One preposition governs “spirit and truth” in 4:23–24 (which the NIV shows incorrectly). Such worship “in spirit and truth” means that we do not have a catalogue of two features here, but one inseparable concept. This is worship empowered by God but also informed by the revelation of God and provided to humans by the One who is the truth, Jesus Christ (14:6). Later Jesus will refer to this Spirit as “the Spirit of truth” (14:17;15:26). This is worship not tied to holy places but impacted by a holy Person, who through his cross will inaugurate the era in which the Holy Spirit will change everything.
– Gary M. Burge