Summary: From a series on our church’s Core Values
1. Christ’s witnesses connect with thirsty people. (1-15)
The account exemplifies how Jesus met people on their own turf. Jesus knew what we need to learn. Harvesters must get in the field. Fishermen go where the fish are. Someone said, "Fishing in your bathtub might be terribly convenient, but it’s not highly effective."
That’s the difference between us expecting people to come to us, and going to them. Jesus had 132 contacts with people in the gospels. Six were in the Temple, four in the synagogues. All the others were out in life situations. One of the accusing comments the religious leaders threw at Jesus, was He connected with people they considered down-and-outers -- outcasts -- little people, rejects in their religious culture.
How does Jesus connect here? He begins by crossing barriers to demonstrate her value. First, Jesus crossed cultural barriers. Verse 4 says Jesus had to go through Samaria. That statement is true geographically, but it wasn’t true culturally. Samaria was straight north if a traveler was headed to Galilee. But no self-respecting Jew would travel throught Samaria. The proper Jew would cross over the Jordan, then go north, then back west to get to his destination.
The Samaritans were a mixed race and they mixed worship of God with pagan rituals. After Jews were deported to Assyria, the Assyrians repopulated areas with captives from other countries to settle the territory and keep the peace. Those new peoples intermarried with the few Jews left and formed the mixed race. So the Jews hated the Samaritans because they weren’t pure and felt they’d betrayed their religious heritage. Jesus had to go through Samaria, to keep divine appointments.
Jesus crossed social barriers.
Two odd things in the woman’s behavior: First, there was a closer well to which she could have gone. Secondly, women would come to get water early or late when it was cooler. This woman was probably forced to go further and to go at mid-day to avoid contact with the “proper” women.
Think about her situation. Women had no power. She hadn’t divorced one husband after another and moved from one to the next and the next and the next. She didn’t move from man to man. She was discarded by one after another. Now, she’s living with someone. He’s not her husband. And that’s not necessarily because she had no standards, but because no one cared about her. With her reputation, no respectable Jewish man would talk to her. No rabbi would ever engage a woman in spiritual conversation publicly. One rabbi is quoted as having written, “Better to burn the Law than give it to a woman“.
Jesus ignored social and gender barriers because all that was meaningless compared to God’s value of this woman. Her spiritual needs matter far more than her state. How often do we quickly pre-judge people and peg their value before we will consider interacting with them, especially about our message of Christ and their eternity?
Jesus also crossed religious barriers.
The disciples were raised in a culture greatly different than the Samaritan culture. They will be shocked out of their minds to return from their shopping trip and find Jesus conversing with a woman of the Samaritans.