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This is the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in Samaria. It is helpful to know a little of the history between the Jews and the Samaritans to understand this passage. D. A. Carson, in his commentary on The Gospel of John says this:
After the Assyrians captured Samaria [the capital of the Northern kingdom of Israel] in 722–21 BC, they deported all the Israelites of substance and settled the land with foreigners, who intermarried with the surviving Israelites and adhered to some form of their ancient religion (2 Kings 17–18). After the exile [of the Southern kingdom in Babylon], Jews, returning to their homeland . . . viewed the Samaritans not only as the children of political rebels but as racial half-breeds whose religion was tainted by various unacceptable elements. . . . About 400 BC the Samaritans erected a rival temple on Mount Gerizim.
It was not unusual for Jews to avoid passing through Samaria altogether. It made for a longer journey from Galilee to Jerusalem but it kept the Jews from contact with those “half-breeds” of Samaria.
I see a lot of intentionality on the part of Jesus in this passage. Intentionality is a good thing.
Perhaps the most interesting word in this passage for me is found in verse 4… “And he (Jesus) had to pass through Samaria.” The fact of the matter was that Jesus did NOT have to pass through Samaria. He could have gone around as many Jews tended to do. It is as if Jesus deliberately went through Samaria looking for an opportunity to have a gospel conversation.
And what happens in this passage reeks of scandal. Not only did Jesus intentionally go through Samaria but He intentionally engaged a woman in conversation. This was just not done by upright Jews. And not just any woman but a sinful woman. (vs 7-12)
He intentionally introduced spiritual things into a mundane conversation. (vs 13-15) And he intentionally brought up the taboo subject of her sinful lifestyle. (vs 16-18)
He intentionally challenged her beliefs that had been based on tradition (vs 19-24)
And finally He chose to intentionally reveal, for the first time, to a woman of ill-repute, that He was indeed the long awaited promised Messiah. (vs 25-26)
There are many lessons in this passage for me. Probably the one that stands out the most is that I need to be much more intentional about looking for opportunities to have gospel centered conversations. It is very easy for me to stay where I am comfortable and not venture into Samaria where I might meet “sinners.”
Father, would You create in me such a love for people who are far away from You that I am compelled to go to places that I am uncomfortable. And give me the courage to do so.
Next Week’s Passage: John 4:27-54