Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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"Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us the well and himself drank of it, and his sons and cattle?"
The woman at the well, in John 4:12
"So from now on, we know no man after the flesh;
even if we knew Christ after the flesh, we now no longer know him that way."
Paul, in 2Corinthians 5:16
The woman at the well thought that Jesus and the Jews were in error because they refused to worship in the several high places where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshiped God. They did not believe it was God speaking through Moses several hundred years after Abraham (Dt. 12), telling Israel that when they entered Canaan, He would chose just one place for them to worship Him. Nor did the Samaritans believe that David was moved by the Spirit to say that God had chosen Jerusalem as that one place.
Now, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were doing well to worship God on the high places of Canaan. But when God made the changes that He made through Moses and David, it was sinful to continue to worship as Abraham and Isaac and Jacob did. To the Samaritans, the way that those three patriarchs worshiped God was a stumbling stone. They chose to follow the style of Jacob's worship rather than to follow his true faith toward God. If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had lived after Moses and David received their revelations from God, they would have worshiped in Jerusalem and nowhere else. But because they lived much earlier than Moses, they worshiped in a way that later would be contrary to the will of God. Those godly men were stumbling blocks for the Samaritans because the Samaritans did not have the same kind of faith these holy men had; instead, they gloried in an appearance of righteousness and clung to the style rather than the substance of their "fathers".
There are many today who are making the same mistake the Samaritans made concerning the worship of God. I refer principally to Jesus and the way he worshiped God while he lived on earth. Jesus was a Jew, "born under the Law". Because of the Law, Jesus observed the Sabbaths and holy days of the Law, and because he did that, many today, declaring that Jesus was our example, attempt to do the same. Jesus submitted to John's baptism in water, and because he did that, millions now, saying that Jesus was our example, practice some form of a ceremonial water baptism (none of them John's). Jesus washed the disciples feet, and because he did that, many today, saying that Jesus was our example, hold annual ceremonial foot-washing services in their houses of worship. And yet, because of that same Law, Jesus traveled every year to Jerusalem for the three major feasts that God required of the Jews. Do the millions who say Jesus was our example also travel to Jerusalem for those feasts? On what grounds do they pick and choose which acts of Jesus to follow, if he was our example? Jesus also recognized animal sacrifice as legitimate and commanded the lepers he healed to go to the priests in Jerusalem and offer the sacrifice that the Law demanded of healed lepers. Where is the sacrificial altar used by the millions who claim that Jesus was our example? There are none because they do not follow his example in that regard. But on what grounds?
Why do those who see Jesus' method as our example refuse to partake of animal sacrifices if Jesus partook of them? If Jesus is our example, wasn't he a perfect one, and shouldn't we follow that example in the exact manner that he laid it out for us? The reasoning of those who selectively follow Jesus' example escapes me.
If we can see the worthlessness of continuing animal sacrifices that Jesus partook of, then why can we not see the worthlessness of continuing in the other ceremonial works of the Law, the holy days, the baptism of John, the symbolic washing of feet, etc.? I know why I follow Jesus in none of those things. But why do millions only follow him in a few of them?
Jesus partook of all those ceremonial works for the same reason: God required them of the Jews. But because Jesus actually submitted himself to ceremonies under the Law, he has become a stumbling block for more than a billion Christians, who practice ceremonies similar to some of those which Jesus did, just as the Samaritan woman at the well still worshiped in high places long after God had moved on to Jerusalem.
There was a time when God was acceptably worshiped in many high places, but then God moved on to one place: Jerusalem. Those who did not acknowledge that change and continued to worship in the high places were condemned by God's prophets. God was in Jerusalem, but then He moved to another place of worship, the place of the Spirit. Jesus told the Samaritan woman where that place is: "Jesus said to her, 'Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall you worship the Father. You do not know what you are worshiping; we know what we worship because salvation is of the Jews. But an hour is coming, and is here already, when true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is a spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth" (Jn. 4:21-24).
To refuse to cease from worshiping in dead ceremony now is the equivalent of continuing to worship in the high places after God moved to Jerusalem. And just as righteous Abraham, with his style of worship in the high places, became a stumbling block for the Samaritans, so the holy Lord Jesus, with his style of ceremonial worship under the Law, has become a stumbling block today for untold millions of people who do not understand the truth. They baptize with water because Jesus was baptized with water, just as the Samaritans made sacrifice on high hills because Abraham did.
But Jesus did those things so that we would not have to do them. He not only died for us; he lived under the Law for us. And in him, we are complete. Don't let his obedience to God under the Law become a stumbling block for you. See it for what it is and be free. This is what Paul was appealing to us Gentiles to do when he warned us not to look at Jesus as a fleshly man any more. The Jesus of Nazareth was a perfect example for the Jews who lived under the Law with him. The Jesus who sits at God's right hand today is not of flesh, has nothing to do with fleshly ceremonies, and is a perfect example for us all.