Today’s story is about the Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well. You can read it here.
This story has me (or possibly the Musana staff person I partner with?) acting out the part of the Samaritan woman, telling her story in first person to the kiddos. I’ve sewed up a very rough Bible character costume – which was a headache in itself as my sewing machine wasn’t working. We’ll have this story out at the bore hole since it’s the equivalent of a well, and I’m bringing hundreds of Dixie cups for all of the kids to have a small drink of water. Object lesson, ya know?
Since we’re dealing with kids, we’re gonna leave out the part about how the Samaritan woman had five divorces and was shacking up with someone she’s not married to (further proof that the Bible is not G-rated!). Instead the focus will be on how she was left out because she was different: a Samaritan.
From what I can gather from my research (and if I’m wrong, please let me know!) Samaritans were descendants from the Israelite ribes of Manasseh and Ephraim who intermarried with non-Israelites – something not looked kindly upon in the Mosaic law. After the Jews returned from Babylonian exile, the Samaritans tried to stop them from rebuilding the temple. The Samaritans built their own temple and worshipped God there, which probably involved some idolatry since they had intermarried with people from other religions. They also accepted the criminals and outlaws fleeing Judea.
So you can gather from that how much the Jews disliked Samaritans. That is to say, A LOT. (The Samaritans didn’t think much of the Jews either.)
For Jesus to speak to a Samaritan – and a woman at that! (how Jesus flew in the face of the conventional perspective on women’s rights and value could be a whole other post) – was unheard of and even scandalous. Hence the disciples being completely shocked in verse 27.
By speaking with this woman, Jesus was risking a lot when it came to his reputation. But it’s clear from the rest of the gospels that Jesus didn’t care about his reputation. I’ve heard it said that the question most recorded question in the Bible asked of Jesus was, “Why do you hang out with / spend time with / associate with _______?” where the blank was tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, etc – people that others did not like. His response:
“Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:17
Those who know they are sinners. In this particular context, Jesus was responding to the Pharisees – or religious people. The ones who thought they were better than everyone because of their religion, but they also set up so many systems and rules to prevent people from following God. They thought they were good by the works that they did, but Jesus said they were like cups washed on the outside but dirty on the inside. They didn’t think they needed God. They thought they had or could earn God’s favor by their works.
Except we can’t earn God’s favor! The chasm left by sin is too great. That’s why God gave us Jesus – to give us a way back to him.
It’s like a person who doesn’t acknowledge that they are sick, so they go untreated. Versus people who realize they can’t help themselves and go to a doctor. God says that we are ALL sick. We have ALL sinned. We are ALL equally in need of Jesus to reconnect with him.
The people that flocked to Jesus and that Jesus went to: people who were messy. People who were different. Prostitutes. Tax collectors. Sinners. Fishermen who had flunked out of school. Here in the presence of Jesus, they discovered that in spite of all of the things that people said about them or the things that they thought about themselves that God didn’t hate them. That they had value. That God loved them. That no matter what they had done or how far away they had fallen from God’s better plan, they could still be reconnected to God.
The religious folks rejected Jesus.
You hear stories of people who committed heinous crimes that have found God while in prison. I used to scoff at that. “Psht, really? This person did soooo many bad things! How could s/he POSSIBLY become a follower of Christ?” Until I remember the story of Saul. Saul who was a professional Christian killer. Can’t get much further from following Jesus than that! But he had an encounter with Jesus that changed his life. If Saul / Paul could find Jesus, who can’t?
The woman at the well had three strikes against her. She was a Samaritan – so she was rejected by the Jews. She was a woman – so she was rejected by much of society. She was a divorcee multiple times over – so she was rejected by her community and probably a frequent subject of the equivalent of water cooler gossip. No wonder she would head out to the well in the heat of the day to haul a heavy load of water, just to avoid being the object of stares and whispers and giggles.
Jesus spoke to her.
What types of people do I avoid eye contact with when I see walking down the street? Who do I point at and whisper about and laugh at when they’ve passed by? Who do I worry about ruining my reputation if I associated with them? Who do I dislike – maybe not personally, but as a group? Democrats? Republicans? Homeless? Wealthy? Smokers? Youtube commenters? Cornhusker fans? Trying to throw a little levity in here, folks. But seriously, is there an adjective out there that if someone used to describe themselves you would immediately shut them out and avoid contact?
Each of these are people who are beloved creations of God – exactly as they are right now, not as they could be if they cleaned up their act or converted. God loves them now. And I need to love them too.