Read John 4:1-9 (ESV)
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 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.)
Are there people that you were told to avoid when you were growing up? Why were you warned to stay away from these people?
Every culture has its traditions and norms. Many of these are fun and celebratory like holiday traditions, festive foods, and styles of dress and music. When we visit other places, it can be fun to experience these aspects of culture. But there are other cultural norms that catch us off guard when we experience them first hand. People can experience culture shock due to differences in standards of living, unusual foods, gestures that get perceived as rude instead of friendly, etc. And sadly, every culture has people it considers to be social outcasts living on the fringe of society. Individuals that proper people don’t want to get caught associating with.
The Samaritans were the people that most Jews in Jesus’ day didn’t want to get caught associating with. They looked down on the Samaritans because they were a mixed race. They were only part Jewish. That means they were also part Gentile. And that means, they were “unclean.”
In today’s passage, Jesus doesn’t experience culture shock but He does shock the culture. Jesus was headed to Galilee and the most direct route was to go through Samaria. Really strict Jews avoided taking this route because they didn't want to be tainted if they came across Samaritans. But Jesus did go through Samaria and stopped by Jacob’s well around noon because He was hot and tired. When a Samaritan woman came to the well to get water, He asked her for a drink.
Now, to us modern readers, this doesn’t sound shocking. But strict Jews would have said that Jesus committed some serious social faux pas. First, men didn’t speak to women, any women, in public. Second, she was a Samaritan and Jesus was a Jew! Third, Jesus was a rabbi, a spiritual teacher, and this woman was not a wholesome woman. She came to the well in the heat of the day when she knew she’d be able to avoid the other women who came in the cool of the day. As their conversation progresses, we’ll find out more of her backstory but for now, we can assume that she isn’t socially accepted by the other women for some reason.
But Jesus spoke to her anyway and she was shocked because in one simple request, Jesus broke cultural barrier after cultural barrier. He even drank from her water jug which would make Jews ceremonially unclean! But Jesus wasn’t afraid of being defiled.
Every culture has their “untouchables.” But the reality is, compared to our holy God, we are all untouchables. We are all unclean. We are all defiled. None of us are wholesome and we all have a backstory. That is precisely why Jesus came. When He touches our lives, He doesn’t get dirty, but we are made clean. We don’t rub off on Him, He transforms us.
So, if you feel like you’ve done too much and you aren’t the kind of person Jesus would associate with, go to Him anyway. He has living water that cleanses us, restores us, and makes us new. If you have already let Jesus transform your life then think about the social outcasts you come across. Don’t let cultural barriers stop you from pointing them to the One who can cleanse them of their sin, clean up their life, and give them everlasting life.
Jesus, I thank and praise You for coming into the world to cleanse us and transform us with Your living water—Your Holy Spirit. I know that before You, I was defiled. Unclean. Give me Your eyes to see society's outcasts the way You see them and help me point them to You. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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