Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Samaritan Woman

I’d like to point out a few things casual readers of scripture may miss when one reads through the passages in John chapter 4 and Jesus’ encounter with the “woman at the well.” Many lessons like to point out Jesus' teaching about the water of life, the “living water” or sermons that point out the fallenness of the woman and Jesus’ telling her the fact she had no husband…or that we need to worship God in Spirit and know, the assorted sermon illustrations all of which are good to remember as we meditate on scripture.

But now a question. Do we in our day and age get the point the Apostle John was making when writing this example of Jesus’ ministry? Do we in the 20th century understand the cultural significance of our Lord (as a Jewish man) sitting and speaking with a Samaritan woman in 1st century Palestine?

Let me help here.

First, most of us think we understand the “dislike” of the Samaritans by the Jews in the Roman territory of Palestine…but you need to understand that it was out-right hatred! The Rabbis of the time taught that it was ok to kill a Samaritan because you were killing a “heretic.” That about a hundred (or so) years prior there had been a Jewish raid that destroyed the Samaritan temple, and in retribution the Samaritans smuggled human bones into the Jerusalem Temple to deliberately defile it!

Dislike is a bit of an understatement!

And what about Samaritan women?

Jewish Rabbis taught that Samaritan women were considered “menstrual” from the cradle…another-words, Samaritan women were always unclean, and un-touchable…and everything that they touched was also unclean.

Now, am I beginning to help in your understanding of this passage? Do you see what an amazing point that St. John was making in writing of this example of Jesus’ earthly ministry? Do you realize that Jesus identified himself as the Messiah for the first time in his earthly ministry to a Samaritan woman!!!

And that this un-clean, un-loved, cast-off woman went and preached the Messiah to her entire town!

Now, what’s your excuse for not spreading the Gospel?

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