“And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”John 4:4-42 (ESV)
Prejudice and Racial Tension
This narrative contains a good bit of prejudice, especially against the woman. She is a woman, considered by men of her time and culture to be property. At one time she was the property of her father. She was then traded for a bride price to a man, to whom she became a wife – again the property of a man. He discarded her and another man owned her as wife. This scenario repeats for five husbands. Now she is free of husbands but living with a man who owns her as a mistress yet does not even give her the meager rights of a bride. As a woman, she is looked down upon as unimportant, uneducable, and disposable as any property is. The townspeople would not confess that her testimony had anything to do with their coming to see Jesus as the Messiah. Society looked down on her for her failed marriages and adulterous living. This may be why she was at the well at mid-day instead of in the morning when most women would have collected water. Maybe she was avoiding stares, glares, gossip, and accusation. Add to this the fact of her ethnicity, she is a Samaritan. Her people were considered worthless by the Jews of her day. Her ancestry is mixed of Hebrew and Canaanite (Palestinian) blood. He forefathers stayed behind when Judah was carried off into captivity and intermarried with the nations around them – she was not pure-blood. Jews ignored that fact that not many of them were truly pure blood, their ancestors were Hebrew, Babylonian, and Persian. They claimed a higher status and looked at the Samaritans a half-breed and as valuable as a feral street dog.
There is something different about this man.
Note her reaction when Jesus speaks to her, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (Joh 4:9). She is saying, don’t you know who I am and who you are? I am a Samaritan you are a Jew; I am a woman you are a man who is not my relative or husband. Don’t you know what people will think? I came here at this moment to avoid people and here you are talking to me? What are your intentions? Do you want me as property like everyone else? If your motives are pure, do you know what your own people will think of you? Do you know they will call you unclean? Don’t you know you are supposed to disregard or at least avoid people like me?
Jesus does not care. He sees a soul in need of the Savior. He sees a sinner in need of grace. He sees and individual that would benefit from knowing the Father. He cared for her as an individual.
There is a lot of conversation today about ethnic and socio-economic issues of prejudice in our world today. Some of that conversation needs to be heard. Some of the rhetoric seems to inflame the tension more than heal it. What is a Christian supposed to do?
What is a Christian supposed to do?
Take your cue from the Christ. You and I may not be in a position to influence policies or even in a position to speak. But we can still be proactive.
- Act on an individual level.
- Reach out to those your have and can have contact with.
- Treat everyone – no matter their ethnicity, socio-economic status, state or community of origin or residence, religion, or gender – with respect and human kindness. In the words of the Christ, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Mat 7:12 New Living Translation).
- In other words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”