Summary: Who are the people you would rather avoid or bypass altogether? Jesus went to those who were on the fringe of society and made a difference. We can do the same as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
April , 2007
Where is Your Samaria?
“and He must needs go through Samaria.”
INTRODUCTION: The shortest route from Jerusalem to Galilee was on the high road straight through Samaria, but most people would take the longer way around in order to avoid the Samaritans. A strong rivalry and hatred existed between the Jews and the Samaritans, and the Jews felt that any contact with these people would defile them. They were very adamant about avoiding these people, and the Samaritans didn’t feel any better toward them either.
The focus of this scripture is normally on the woman at the well and the fact that she had such a bad reputation. I would like to focus today on something else in this Scripture. Look at verse 4.
Jesus made it His business to go though this town even though the Samaritans were a fringe segment of the Jewish world. John says in verse 4, “He must needs--or of necessity go through this town.” Most people would have written the Samaritans off. In their minds there were no “good” Samaritans in spite of the one who sought to help a man along the wayside who had been robbed and beaten. This Samaritan was probably thought of as the exception to the rule.
Why, then, did Jesus feel such a strong need to go through a town which everyone else avoided? Why was it necessary/ He knew how these people were. Why didn’t He pass them by and forget about them as everyone else did? It would have been the easier thing to do. But as the Savior of all humanity, Jesus felt He had to confront the smoldering suspicion and enmity between the Jews and Samaritans by ministering to his enemies.
When Jesus came to earth to live among people, He came not only to save the desirable people but also those who were on the fringe of society. This included the undesirable Samaritans, and His salvation reached into their town also. Jesus said, “It is necessary for me to pass through there too.” In another scripture in Mark 2:17 Jesus said, “They that are whole have no need of the physician but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous but the sinners to repentance.” Jesus came to save this segment of the population also and therefore was not going to bypass Samaria. In this Scripture Jesus was able to teach his disciples a lesson in cross-cultural communication. What does this say to us today? I came up with three things that I believe speak to us today.
1. Barriers Existed in Samaria--Because it was a priority for Him to go to this town. He met a person there who “just happened” to be at the well at an unusual time of day. Or was it just coincidence? She may have been shunned by others because of her character, but Jesus talked with her. In my research I found some other interesting information. She may have been shunned but there was another side to it too. You remember that Jesus told her to bring her husband, and she said, “I have no husband.” One of the reasons for this was that Jesus understood that in her culture women lacked authority to make substantive decisions on their own. Those were made by men, often tribally, within clans. In fact, it was unusual for a man, particularly a rabbi, to hold serious conversation with a woman in public as Jesus was doing. When Jesus asked her to bring her husband and at her reply when she said, “I have no husband,” Jesus said, “That’s right. You have had five husbands and the one you are living with now is not your husband.”
However, she was a person who had had connections with a lot of families in various clans. Those connections might have made her a “gatekeeper” or social organizer of the community. What this means is that she was a person who could unlock the village for Jesus because in many cultures which are more clannish, the intra-family relationships have a powerful bearing on how the message will be received. In Northern European American cultures there is a tendency to value individual choice more. Here there was more value on the collective cluster of people. So this woman probably had more influence actually than we realize. At any rate at this point numerous barriers existed which blocked the message from getting through. Even though she may have been the key person to unlock others’ hearts toward the gospel, these barriers had to be removed.
At first she may have been a little sarcastic when she said, “We Samaritans are the dirt under your feet until you want something, and then we are good enough!” Jesus paid no attention to her bitterness or her flippancy because He saw her need deep beneath the surface. Jesus did not start out by saying, “Hey woman, watch your mouth! You’re offending me. If you don’t get saved you are going straight to hell!” He didn’t get offended by how this woman acted or what she said.