We noticed earlier the Lord Jesus’ tender dealings with the heart and conscience of the Samaritan woman in John’s gospel, chapter 4. While He reveals more to her about true worship than to others, and although she is faithful in her testimony to her neighbors, we don’t really find her worshiping there. But it is the Apostle John, elsewhere in his gospel, that in his own intimate manner gives us further insight into that supreme Christian privilege: worshiping the Father. After all, John’s gospel gives us the Lord’s teaching on the transition from the “hour” that then was to the hour that was to come (John 4:21-24), from the earthly to the heavenly things (John 3:10-13), and from Judaism to Christianity (John 15:24-27).
In chapter 1, we read of John the Baptist seeing Jesus coming, and then commenting on the Lord’s work relative to his own. But later that day, when he gazes upon Jesus, we find John to be more in the role of a worshiper, and his words become few: “Behold the Lamb of God!” The blind man instructs us further in chapter 9, when he utters but two words (in the Greek) before it is said that “he worshiped Him” (John 9:38). Mary’s act of adoration in chapter 12 was completely silent, but the “house was filled with the odour of the ointment”, picturing for us the effect of true worship, from a devoted worshiper, on all those near the Lord Jesus. Again, Mary Magdalene speaks but one worshipful word to the Master in chapter 20, after her broken heart was healed in an instant when He tenderly called but her name. Mere hours later, because of Mary’s faithful testimony, ten of the disciples were more prepared than she for Jesus’ revelation of Himself to their hearts. None of their words are recorded, but would you suppose there was much chatter and show in their worship of Him there? No, for the Scripture tells us simply of their collective worshiping spirits in John 20:20: “Then were the disciples glad (they rejoiced), when they saw the Lord.”
A lovely picture of corporate worship appears at the very end of Matthew, the only gospel to reveal by name the church (the assembly), whose united worship our God so highly values. The disciples went to “a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him.” Perhaps at another time we will meditate upon what is pictured in the mountain and in His appointing them to go there, but for now, let us simply mark that assembly worship is the adoration of believing hearts toward the Lord Jesus, with Him the center and object, whether or not a word is uttered.
Dear Christian, how are you seeking to practice your priestly privilege in collective worship? Might it be by listening to a sermon on how to be a better person? Is it in being entertained by music or dance led by a human “worship leader”? Or is it through a ritual administered by a clergyman? I have no desire to offend or to provoke a defense. Rather, I hope to stir up your heart and mine to better enjoy and practice what true, spiritual, corporate worship really is, according to the New Testament pattern: a sober yet joyful adoration of God, perhaps punctuated with words and hymns of praise, at the table of the Lord with Him in the midst, where saints bless the cup and break the bread, in fellowship together with the Father and the Son. (I Corinthians 10:16-21; 11:23-26; 14:15-19)