As I read and meditated on this passage, something with which I was initially struck that I hadn’t paid much attention to before was the significance of this well in the story. In v.5, John goes out of his way to point out this well’s significance. It was Jacob’s well, the great forefather of Israel. Moreover, after Jesus mentions His “living water,” the woman asks in v.12, Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank out of it himself? In other words, do you think that your water is somehow better than Jacob’s, our great forefather? And of course, likely alluding to the OT imagery of the Holy Spirit as water, Jesus argues that His “water” is superior. Jesus is greater than Jacob. And, if D.A. Carson’s understanding of “truth” (i.e., the reality, the antitype) in v.24 is correct, this insight correlates to Jesus’ statement about worshipping in “truth.” Jesus is that “true” everything that the OT anticipated according to John. Specifically here, He is superior to Jacob; His well, i.e., Himself, is the “true” well.
Many things could be said here; but I am focusing on this specific observation and Dr. Carson’s helpful comments because this helped me understand this passage in a fresh and challenging way. In John’s gospel, Jesus is the “true” everything. Here, He is the “true” well who offers the “true” water. Correspondingly, Jesus tells us that God desires worship in “truth.” That is, worship no longer conforming to the forms and structures of the Old Covenant, but the New Covenant in Christ. This is not to say that these prescribed forms of worship were somehow false, but that the shadow has faded and the substance is here.
This helps me think about my worship and my church’s worship more accurately. As we worship, with our form of worship with Christ and the Gospel explicitly at the center, we are at the end of a long chain of redemptive-historical worship. This puts things in a proper perspective. What a glorious and privileged position we have to worship the substance apart from shadows! As Peter says, God has placed us at such a blessed position in redemptive history (1 Pet 1:10-12).