Summary: A sermon that highlights how Jesus demonstrates Love, Faith and Mercy in his dealings with this often neglected group of people.
Ministry to the Samaritans
This morning I feel that God is leading me to speak on the subject of Samaritans. More to the point I want to speak about Jesus’ interaction with this particular group of people.
As a Jew, Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritans caused quite a bit of a stir at the time. The animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans at the time of Jesus was very much like the animosity between the Jews and the Arabs today. I want to start by giving you a little background into the Samaritans and why there was so much hatred between them and the Jews.
Israel, at the time of King David had been one nation similar to England today. Two generations later however the kingdom had split apart. It would be the equivalent of London splitting from the rest of the country, and two nations emerging with their separate kings.
While Jerusalem remained the capital of the Southern kingdom, Samaria became the capital of the Northern Kingdom. Around 700 years before Christ this Northern kingdom fell to the Nation of Assyria and a large percentage of the people were forcibly exiled into surrounding nations. The king of Assyria replaced them with peoples from other nations who mixed with the remained Jews and intermarried.
The Samaritans therefore were partly Jewish and partly descendants of the other nations. There religious beliefs were just as mixed as their heritage. They held on to the books of Moses, but their religious practices were partly influenced by their other cultural backgrounds and the nations that would rule over them over the next few hundred years before Christ came.
They had built a temple on Mt Gerizim at Shechem, which was later destroyed, but they continued to worship there. That is why when Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter 4 and verse 20, she says.
20:Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
In that same conversation Jesus reveals how confused the Samaritan belief system has become, when he states that the Samaritans don’t even know who they are worshipping.
The Jewish contempt for the Samaritans was so great that, the Pharisees in trying to insult Jesus state.
48:The Jews answered him, "Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?"
This comment shows that to the Jews to be a Samaritan is about as far away from God as you can get. In terms of spirituality, it is equal to being demon-possess.
There was, however, one thing that both Jews and Samaritans had in common. After years of being oppressed by one nation and then another, both the Jews and the Samaritans resented foreign rule. They were both looking for a promised Messiah.
It is at this point that Jesus comes along. The Gospel of Luke describes three different interactions that Jesus has with Samaritans, and what we can learn from that.
The interaction between Jesus and the Samaritans mentioned in the book of Luke display Him to be a God of mercy.
Luke 9:51-56 (NKJ)
51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,
52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.
53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.
54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”
55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.
56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.
In these few verses we see Jesus is heading for Jerusalem. It states that He is resolute. He is going to be going to His death. On His way, He plans to stay in a Samaritan village. However, the people there reject Him.
Why do they reject Him? It states that they reject him because he is heading for Jerusalem. Why did they reject Jesus because He was going to Jerusalem?
Maybe it was because, as we found, in the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well, that the Samaritans viewed Mt Gerizim as being the place that God should be worshipped? They were probably expecting the messiah to come to that very mountain, not to go to Jerusalem. Jesus couldn’t be the person that they were expecting, because he didn’t follow there preconceived ideas and beliefs about the way that he should come.