Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Who Are The Samaritans?

Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman by the well in John 4, why? Who are the Samaritans?

In 2 Kings, I discover that Samaritans are what are called 'half-breeds'. They are children of Israel (Jacob) who fear Jehovah, yet do not keep the 'law' of Moses by making graven images to God and worshipping God in high places, while the orthodox worship only in Jerusalem. Are not all the children of Israel (Jacob) considered Jews? What makes one a Jew? What makes one a Gentile?

What I find amazing is that God's covenant with Abraham (promise of the Messiah) was extended to Israel (Jacob) and all his descendents, which would include the Samaritans. The Samaritan woman didn’t understand why Jesus asked her for a drink (because Jews did not associate with Samaritans or drink out of anything they have touched because it would be considered defiled according to their religious laws) knowing that he was a Jewish Rabbi and she a Samaritan woman.

Jesus' response was: John 4:10 - "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

She responds by asking him if he’s greater than her father Jacob (Israel) who dug the well in the first place, because he didn’t have anything to draw the water with. But, I just wonder if she wasn’t asking a spiritual question, instead of a natural one, because Jesus didn’t give her a natural answer, but a spiritual one.

John 4:13 – “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.”

She responds by asking him to give her this water so that she would never thirst. Again, I don’t think her response was a natural response, because he didn’t have anything to draw natural water with, nor did he offer natural water – so it wasn’t natural water that she requested, but spiritual water (salvation).

Jesus immediately starts to address the sin in the woman’s life, bringing to light her promiscuousness, which she doesn’t deny, but confesses.

Is this not what happens to those who come to Christ? Once they accept his free gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit is poured out and then the Christian begins to deal with the sin in their life – confessing that sin and beginning the process of conforming to the image of Christ through the transforming of the mind?

Then immediately after the addressing of the sin they speak of worship. The woman addresses the religious strife between the Jews and the Samaritans, because of a difference in doctrinal belief. The Samaritans worship God on the mountain, while the Jews declare they must worship in Jerusalem. Why would she be concerned about where to worship?

Jesus responds: “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Jesus addresses the difference between religious duty and spiritual relationship. I believe he knew this woman’s heart better than the religious Jews who wouldn’t have given her the time of day.

She then confesses in her belief and hope in the Messiah (Christ) to come and that He would explain the ‘truth’ of all things, and Jesus answers, “I who speak to you am He”.

This is one of the few times that Jesus comes right out and claims to be the Christ and it was to a woman that in the religious world’s eyes was beyond redemption.

But, the story doesn’t end there. When the disciples return they do not rebuke Christ for speaking with the ‘dirty’ Samaritan, but urge him to eat, which he refuses. They look at his response in the natural (thinking he has physically been fed), but Jesus responds to them in the spiritual by proclaiming, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” He speaks of a harvest – not a physical one, but a spiritual one. I have to believe he was speaking of the Samaritans, because his one action with the one woman led to the salvation of many of the Samaritans who would never have been given the opportunity.

Do you think perhaps that once again the ‘religious leaders’ during this time had it wrong? Could they once again have misinterpreted the purpose of the law (used to identify sin and make retribution) and completely missed the spiritual nature and aspect of it?

I don’t know all the answers to the questions that I’ve posed, but it’s given me reason to pause. I’d like to learn all about the Samaritans and see why this encounter was so important that God made sure it was included in his Word. Why was it so important that Jesus speak to this woman?
Why did he make her the offer that he did?
What spiritual significance does it play?
What spiritual parallel are we to draw from it?

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray