Worshipping God through songs, hymns, and prayers is a central part of modern Christian life. But what did Jesus say about worship?
In this article, we will look together into the biblical account of what Jesus taught about worship.
As a general rule, Jesus says we must “worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). In this context, He reveals that it is no longer about worship in a specific location, but about worshipping God from your heart and in all honesty, based on an active relationship with God as your Father.
I’d like to take you with me through this Bible study. First, we’ll go through some scriptures that define worship specifically in connection with Jesus. Then I’d like to probe through John 4:1-26, where we can learn from Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. Then in closing, I will share my suggestions on how this could all apply to us today.
How did Jesus define worship?
- Don’t rely on a specific location
- God created you to worship Him
- Worship God as your heavenly Father
- Worship God based on your relationship with Him
- Worship God in the spirit from all your heart
- Worship God in truth and all honesty
- Worship God as a sign of love, honor, and obedience
In Matthew 4:1-11 Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert. In one of the temptations, Satan offers Jesus all the nations of the world if Jesus would just bow down and worship him.
Now, the Greek word used for worship in the New Testament is “προσκυνέω (pros-koo-neh’-o)” which means “to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence”. In the New Testament, it is used as “kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication”. (Sourced from blueletterbible.org)
In other words, worship means showing honor, respect, and obedience to men or beings of superiority by bowing down to them.
Well, in the case of Jesus’ temptation, Jesus knew who He was and answered, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” (Matthew 4:10)
He basically said, everyone ought to worship God as the only Lord – no one else besides Him.
We know God is a jealous God who longs to be the only one who is loved with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Exodus 20:1-6, Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12, 11:13, Mark 12:30)
God longs to be worshipped by us from our hearts.
In fact, He even created us to worship only Him (Ephesians 1:3-6, 1 Peter 2:5).
Now, worship alone will not get us into heaven. It doesn’t matter how much, how beautiful, or how intense we worship. The only way we can get through to God, the Father, is through Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to him,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me.“
John 14:6 NKJV
True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth
Let us look into the situation where Jesus meets the woman at the well. I believe we can learn a few great lessons from this passage in John 4:1-26.
I will go through this passage little by little to give a better understanding of what’s going on in here.
Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
John 4:1-10 NKJV
Now, you might be able to see here in comparison with Jesus’ spiritual answers, how the woman thinks and answers Jesus in the flesh. Even though Jesus started out asking for something physical, He quickly turns the conversation around giving her spiritual answers.
As you will see further on, Jesus does this because she has a real problem with excuse-making, and not wanting to serve.
So, Jesus tries continuously to lead the conversation back unto a spiritual level, while she is totally caught up in the flesh.
You will see my point confirmed with her next answer.
The woman said to Him,
“Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
John 4:11 NKJV
Now she mocks Jesus in His face and gives Him a real attitude.
Here’s what’s happening: Jesus, well knowing who she is, asks her for something to drink.
But she’s like: “Boy, I ain’t givin’ you some’in to drink. You’re a jew, I’m a Samaritan and a woman on top of that.”
I guess today, a statement like this would be considered highly racist.
However, Jesus cuts straight through the chase. He knows it’s just an excuse because she doesn’t want to serve Him water. We’ll also see this in the whole context of the situation, as we will discover more later.
Jesus politely and respectfully brings it back to a spiritual level. In my own words John 4:10 would sound like this:
“Girl, if you’d know who I am, you would have asked me for something to drink.
And that water I would have given you would have been living water of that spiritual kind which you obviously really need!”
In Her pride and in her excuse-making, she still mocks him and gives him attitude. She doesn’t understand that He talks about spiritual water and spiritual things.
Again, Jesus is polite but sovereign trying to teach her a real-life lesson in the Spirit.
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
John 4:13-14 NKJV
Jesus continues where He left off in His sentence before. He tells her the water she actually needs is water that never runs dry and gives everlasting life.
Like, hello?! That’s a keyword right there: ever – lasting – life! As in eternal life. He tries to lift the conversation to the spiritual level.
But in her pride, it totally goes over her head.
The woman said to Him,
“Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
John 4:15 NKJV
Do you see how she gets cocky and how stuck she is in her fleshly thinking?
Put into my own words she’s like:
“Oh, great, if you can give me water (as in natural water) where I never have to drink and never have to come out here in the heat to draw me water in much effort, I take that.”
Can you see how she blatantly answers out of her laziness? That’s what worked behind her excuse-making from the beginning.
As He sees that she doesn’t get the point, nor that He can pierce through her pride, arrogance, laziness, foolishness, and excuse-making, Jesus answers her this:
Jesus said to her,
“Go, call your husband, and come here.”
The woman answered and said,
“I have no husband.”
Jesus said to her,
“You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
John 4:16-18 NKJV
Jesus tries to convict her on another level now.
He confronts her about her love life to show her that He knows exactly what’s going on with her.
In my own words, it’s like Jesus tells her,
“Don’t be so proud now. Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. You had five husbands, one after another. Then when the thing with the last one was done, you went right for another one, but that one you didn’t even care to marry. So, finally, we’re are having some real talk here.”
Now, He’s got her attention – but only for a moment.
The woman said to Him,
“Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
John 4:19-20 NKJV
Right in the next sentence, she throws another accusation at Him:
“Our people used to worship right here. We thought this was the right thing to do. Then YOU Jews came and told us, ‘no’ the real place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
The two went flip flop from talking in the flesh to talking spiritually, from lazy excuse-making to everlasting life-giving living water, up to exposing her vibrant love life. Now again and finally, they transition back to our main spiritual point:
True worship in a real relationship with God as your father.
Jesus said to her,
“Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 4:21-24 NKJV
Jesus basically says,
“You guys have no idea whom you actually worship out here.
We Jews know whom we worship in Jerusalem.”
That means, if you want to be a real worshipper of God, then you need to worship the Father. It’s not about the location anymore. You have to worship God (encountering Him) as God the Father. Meaning you have to be in a relationship with Him. Him being your Father, and you become His Child.
Further, this worship can’t happen in the flesh through a performance or emotionalism. It must be in the spirit and in all honesty out of the truest heart without show, pretense, or lip service.
We can see the same principle stated in Psalm 145:18.
“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.”
Psalm 145:18 NKJV
God the Father is Spirit, so, in order to connect with Him, we need to come up to His level in the spirit as well.
Jesus makes it clear, it’s not about the place anymore. It’s about a relationship with God as your Father and about the state of your heart.
I know I repeat myself here, but God himself wants an honest encounter with you. There won’t be any sugar coating or pretense.
God wants to face you in all honesty. He wants to talk to you from heart to heart in all sincerity and in the Spirit – not fleshly like this woman did with Jesus all this time.
Romans 12:1-2 speaks about presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice to God. That’s what God wants. Father in heaven wants us as a whole. He wants our respect, our love, and our obedience to bring Him fruit that remains. (John 15:1-8)
The woman said to Him,
“I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
Jesus said to her,
“I who speak to you am He.”
John 4:25-26 NKJV
One could read the last two verses in this context: After He tells her that she actually has nothing to boast about, she replies: “Oh, so now you’re a prophet. Well, we worship God. We do all the things you Jews say we should do in Jerusalem.”
If we’d compare it to our time she would say, “I am a Christian, I am going to Church.“
Jesus gives her a real “Word of God for you” answer, but she still wouldn’t take His word for it.
To me, it seems like she responds like this: “It’s nice that you tell me all these things, but when Christ the Messiah comes, He will tell us what to do.“
Jesus is like, “HELLO?!?! Girl!!! I AM the Messiah. It’s me. And I do tell you right now what you should do and how you should do it. Do you even listen to what I say?!”
Have you noticed how she never apologizes for her mockery and how she never gets Him something to drink?
That’s what He asked for in the first place. I mean, come on. Jesus probably was still thirsty. We read that it was at noontime, in the heat of the day. Jesus was “wearied from His journey” (John 4:6).
He certainly didn’t get all refreshed all of a sudden while having this rather difficult conversation with this lady.
Even after He tells her He is the Messiah that she has been waiting for, she still doesn’t want to serve Him.
Instead, she walks off into the city. Granted, she advertises Him there. But the people in the city get the message better than she does! (John 4:39-42)
With all this talk about Jesus teaching about worship, did you know that there is no Bible verse that literally says “Jesus worshipped God?”
It begs the question: Did Jesus actually worship God at all?
Of course, you might say.
So, Jesus is God, does this then mean He somehow worshipped Himself?
I wrote a dedicated article to answer these questions in detail. You can read it over here:
This leads me to some possible applications we can draw out of this passage for our own life.
What can we learn from the woman at the well?
You can only connect with God in worship if you worship Him in the spirit. Your spirit must connect with the Holy Spirit by bringing genuine thanksgiving, praise, respect, love, and adoration towards God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Remember that God is going to listen to your heart, not your lips. So, make sure you worship truthfully from your heart.
Of course, that involves emotions – that’s how God made us. But it’s not based on emotions but on our faith in God (2 Corinthians 5:7).
You need to come clean before God.
Get your fire of God back, my friend.
Get excited about the things of God afresh.
Become excited to worship your Lord and Savior again!
God is calling you back into His secret place, into your prayer closet.
That’s where you can find and worship Him most intimate.
We shouldn’t be pretentious or put up a show where everyone can see us (Matthew 6:5-15).
For what? To boost our ego?
Lay all your pride down in every area.
Especially where you were disobedient or where you thought you knew it better.
Lay down all arrogance and excuse-making.
Wherever God has asked you to serve Him and you have been reluctant or you made excuses, you need to repent.
Don’t just feel sorry, but make it up to God.
I know, we can’t earn our righteousness. (Ephesians 2:8)
But you can ask Him for forgiveness and show Him and yourself that you mean it. Change your life without compromise.
Do some serious deliverance on that whole area of arrogance, pride, excuse-making, and spiritual laziness. (And anything else that God works on in your life right now.)
If you have a grudge or you know your brother/sister in Christ has something against you, leave your “sacrifice” (your worship) at the altar, and bring things in order first. (Matthew 5:23-26)
Forgive every person anything and everything from the bottom of your heart.
Let go of all bitterness. If you don’t forgive, your heavenly Father won’t forgive you either (Matthew 6:14-15).
Some of it is hard. I know very well. I had to deal with unforgiveness myself for a while when God started to bring things in order again.
You can find out more about my forgiveness story in the video below.
It can be a process. But you have to start it somewhere!
If you made it all the way down here and this article was a blessing to you, consider sharing it with a friend that you think needs to hear this message too!
When we ask, “did Jesus worship God?”, we actually mean, “did Jesus really worship God while being God himself? Did He, therefore, worship himself?” I want to answer these questions
Worshipping God through songs, hymns, and prayers is a central part of modern Christian life. But what did Jesus say about worship? In this article, we will look together into