Even more important was His statement to the woman of Samaria in the famous conversation which took place by Jacob’s well. He had offered her salvation, and she had revealed her spiritual ignorance. In order to awaken her to her need, He had told her to call her husband and, when she replied that she had none, He told her, in a phrase, the story of her dissolute life. She had lived with a succession of men. She immediately changed the subject, as people so often do when the conversation about their souls comes close to the stinging reality of sin, and asked Him a theological question. The Jews said that the only place to offer a sacrifice was Jerusalem. The Samaritans practiced their religion on Mt. Gerizim. Who was right?
It was, evidently, a theological bone that had been endlessly gnawed over by the people of her town. If people can get up enough steam to be excited about a thing like that, they can cover over the fact that they are denying all the realities of a spiritual faith. The Lord Jesus answered her in two ways. His answer included the great revelation of spiritual demands made by God, but it also settled, in passing, the question that she had asked. He told her that the hour was coming, yes, that it had then arrived, when there was to be no more localized worship. Men were, henceforth, to discard all outward forms of religion and have a religion – the religion – of the heart for, said He, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4.24). But, in passing, He gave her the answer that forever settles the authority of the Old Testament and proves that the Jews were correct in their position, which gave them pre-eminence in the spiritual world.
It is very fortunate that our Lord Jesus Christ had never seen a copy of Emily Post’s book on etiquette. It would have cramped His style no end. Mrs. Post says that religion must not be discussed, that it is an intimate and personal matter about which others must have no concern. But this was not the attitude of the Lord Jesus Christ. And He certainly would never have accepted the false thinking of those who hold that there is good in all religions, that all men are seeking after the same God and that every man shall pray and act in the way he thinks best. The Lord Jesus had been extremely polite to the woman, to the point where it surprised her that He should have addressed her at all. He had offered her salvation and was about to confer upon her the supreme dignity of the revelation of His person and being, and to make her His ambassador to the town on the top of the hill. But, first of all, He turns upon her and says, “You worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4.22). – Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895-1960), from a meditation on Romans 2.17-23.