Whenever the Lord Jesus Christ goes to Jerusalem, which He did very often, He had to pass through Samaria. At a certain village He met ten lepers and healed all of them, but only one returned to give God the glory. That grateful man was a Samaritan (Lk. 17:11-19). At another time Jesus was returning to Galilee and stopped by Jacob’s well in Sychar and talked to a Samaritan woman (Jn. 4:3-6).
Jesus opened the conversation, “Give Me a drink. . . . Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” (Jn. 4:3-9) The Jews and the Samaritans were enemies and here is the background of the enmity between these two peoples.
Originally the land of Israel was divided amongst the twelve tribes. During the reign of King David he united them into the one nation of Israel (2 Sam. 5:1-5, 12). After David’s death Solomon became the king. He strengthened and expanded his kingdom.
“So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.” (1 Kn. 10:23) “But King Solomon loved many foreign women, . . . For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David.” (1 Kn. 11:1-4) “Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, ‘Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.” (1 Kn. 11:11)
God’s judgment on Solomon was carried out immediately after his death. Solomon’s son Rehoboam was not a wise king. He imposed heavy taxation on the people so the northern tribes revolted against him (1 Kn. 12:16-24). From that time onwards the kingdom was divided into two separate ones. The northern kingdom was called Israel and the southern kingdom was called Judah. The capital of the northern kingdom was Samaria and in the southern kingdom Jerusalem became the religious center where Solomon’s temple was located.
Israel’s Northern Kingdom was invaded by Assyria in 722 B.C., and the Assyrians brought other people in to repopulate the land (2 Kn. 17:24-29; 2 Chr. 30:1-10). The people left in the land – mostly from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh – intermarried with the Assyrians and other non-Semitic people and they became the Samaritans (2 Kn. 17:24).
The Babylonians had conquered the Southern Kingdom of Judah and taken many of the people into captivity (605 BC). After the Persians conquered Babylon (537 BC), they allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. However, Nehemiah refused to allow the mixed people of the land to have any part in the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Neh. 2:20). Also, Zerubabbel and the returning Jews denied them any part in the rebuilding of the temple. This deepened the animosity between them (Ezra 4:1-5).
As a result, the Samaritans eventually found another place of worship. Their beliefs came to include monotheism, the Law of Moses (they accepted the Pentateuch but not any other books), and they built their own temple at Mount Gerizim as the only one appointed place of sacrifice and worship. However, the Jews destroyed the Mt. Gerizim temple in 128 B.C., adding more bitterness to the already strained rivalry.
The Jews and the Samaritans were bitter enemies for more than five hundred and thirty years even up to the time of the Lord Jesus Christ. Due to the fact the Lord Jesus Christ had shown love and tolerance towards the Samaritans the Jews also hated Him. The Jews said to Jesus, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48)
When the Lord and His disciples were entering a Samaritan village He was not received because He set His face towards Jerusalem and not Mount Gerizim where the Samaritans worshiped.
“And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?’ But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village.” (Lk. 9:51-56)
Jesus knew His disciples’ intolerance towards the Samaritans therefore He waited for them to go away into the city to buy food before talking with the woman at the well (Jn. 4:8). While Jesus was talking to the woman the disciples returned, “and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or “Why are you talking with her?” (Jn. 4:27) Just like the disciples of Christ two thousand years ago many Christians today are polite in keeping their ill-feelings towards other believers bottled up and not talk about it. We must show love towards others.
“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (Jn. 4:10) The “living water” is the Holy Spirit that is given to believers of the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 7:37-39). The Greek word used for “gift” in this verse is “dorea” which is the same word as “gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:38; 8:20, 10:45; 11:17). God does not withhold the Holy Spirit from anyone. All one has to do is to ask Him (Lk. 11:13).
At first the Samaritan woman did not know who it was that spoke to her, but later she knew it was the Lord Jesus Christ. “Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You have well said, ‘I have no husband, for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” (Jn. 4:16-18) This woman was not only an adulteress but also a bad liar, yet Jesus wanted to save her.
“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know, we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.” (Jn. 4:19-22)
The Samaritan woman was able to identify a true prophet of God. The Samaritans worshiped in their temple on Mount Gerizim and the Jews worshiped in their temple in Jerusalem. Here we learn it is not the place of worship that God cares about. We can worship God anywhere as long as it is “in spirit and truth”. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Mt. 18:20) Although the Samaritans worship the same One True God as the Jews, their religion is not the same as Judaism. When Jesus said “salvation is of the Jews” He meant the Savior would be a Jew from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:8-12; Rev. 5:5).
“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.” (Jn. 4:25-26) Here we have an indication that the Samaritans knew about the Messiah and were expecting Him. Jesus says He is that person. Literally, He says, "I AM, the one speaking to you." This is one of several "I AM" statements in the Gospel of John. “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’ Then they took up stones to throw at Him. . . .” (Jn. 8:58-59) Throwing stones at someone is the punishment for the blasphemy of claiming to be God (Jn. 10:30-33). The Hebrew word “I AM” is “YAH” which is the name of God (Ex. 3:13-15; ref. Psm. 68:4; Isa. 12:2; 38:11). Here Jesus was not only revealing Himself as the Messiah but also He is God.
“And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, "What do You seek?" or, "Why are You talking with her?" The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ? Then they went out of the city and came to Him. " (Jn. 4:27-30)
“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world." (Jn. 4:39-42)
The Samaritan woman was so excited about meeting the Messiah face to face that she “left her waterpot” and immediately shared her experience and witnessed for the Lord Jesus Christ. The Samaritan woman believed in the One True God but belonged to a wrong religion and worshiped in the wrong temple. She had a loose moral character and was an adulteress. Not only that, but she was also a bad liar. Today many Christian churches would have shunned such a woman, but God had used her to bring souls for salvation. The Samaritans in Sychar were not the only ones saved when Jesus personally visited them, but many more Samaritans were also saved after the Lord Jesus Christ had ascended into heaven (Acts 8:5-25).
May God bless you
A sermon based on this article was preached by Paul Wong
to a Congregation in Houston, Texas on September 2, 2005
This article was published on this Website on August 26, 2009
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