What kind of people do we avoid? What places make us uncomfortable? Jesus could be calling us to those very people, into those uncomfortable places.
You may have heard that when first-century Jews traveled the length of Israel from Jerusalem to Galilee, they would loop around the region of the despised Samaritans. No self-respecting Jew wanted to associate with those half-blood, syncretistic losers. The Samaritans were descendents of the low-lifes left behind when everyone of value was trotted off into Babylonian exile, hundreds of years before. These forgotten Jews stayed, survived, and made do, mingling both blood and religion with the locals. When the exiles finally returned to Israel, who greeted them as they arrived? The compromised Samaritans. And bad blood had existed ever since.
So, imagine the shock of the disciples when Jesus refused to support their prejudice. Think of how Peter felt when Jesus kept on straight instead of turning right? Consider Andrew’s gut feeling when they happened upon a well, and Jesus sends them into town to buy food from those . . . people. Feel the deep discomfort when they return to find Jesus speaking, amicably, with a Samaritan woman of questionable morals.
John, when he wrote his good news story, said that Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” Geographically, that was correct, though prejudice and hatred urged the long way around. But in Jesus we learn that he “had to go through Samaria” for another reason—a people reason. He was searching for someone. Jesus had to go through Samaria because he had an appointment with a certain woman at a particular well, a woman who was the first person in John’s Gospel to really get who Jesus was, becoming a vibrant witness to Jesus among her own people, resulting in many coming to know this Jesus, the “Savior of the world.” (See John 4.)
So, where is our Samaria? Who do we avoid? How is Jesus challenging our prejudices? Where are the places where we “need to go”? Are we willing to follow Jesus into uncomfortable places, to meet the destiny-altering appointments at the wells of our day?
~ Tom Greentree