The Messiah for Both Jews and Samaritans
5W Eyewitness Report
The Messiah for Both Jews and Samaritans
A Harmony of the Gospels (Thomas and Gundry) section 39
Main Scripture Passage: John 4:5-26
Reported by: George Hou
Date: July 30, 2007
“For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” This common saying is definitely not true for Jesus of Nazareth, a full-blooded Jewish descent from the tribe of Judah. He and His disciples were baptizing people in Judea, but having heard that the Pharisees took special notice of their ministerial success, He departed and is heading towards Galilee. However, en route to Galilee, He chose a pathway that went right through the region of Samaria, which is a road that a typical Jew, especially the religious devout, would shun even though it has a shorter distance to the north. This is precisely because the “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans,” so even entering their territory seems disagreeable to them. Hence, instead of taking the shorter route, the Jews would skirt around Samaria despite the fact that it will take them a much longer time to reach the northern area. Sometimes Jewish travelers between Jerusalem and Galilee would even have risks of Samaritan attack if they pass through Samaria. The reasons for this strong animosity are historical, theological and cultural. The Samaritans believe that the only inspired text is their particular version of the Torah, which is different from the Torah of the Jews, whereas the latter believe that the whole Tanakh to be divinely inspired. Instead of worshiping in the Jerusalem Temple, the Samaritans worship on Mt. Gerizim and have set up their own temple there. There are also a host of other causes, such as differences in various beliefs and practices that have contributed to the age-old antagonism between these two groups of people. In any case, it is, therefore, very significant that Jesus, a notable Jewish Rabbi with rising popularity, chose to take the road less traveled. However, what is more surprising is that Jesus not only walked on Samaritan soil, but He also stopped by a well and had quite a lengthy conversation with a Samaritan woman who was coming to draw water. Being an eyewitness of this unusual event, I have carefully written down my personal observation of the scene.
This incident took place in a city of Samaria called Sychar where the woman lived. It is in close vicinity of Mt. Gerizim, the place of Samaritan worship. The discussion occurred by Jacob’s well near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. The time was about the sixth hour (six p.m./a.m. or twelve p.m. Roman time). It is the first year of Jesus’ public ministry, which dates about the fall A.D. 27. The persons involved were Jesus of Nazareth, whose fame is spreading rapidly throughout the greater Judean area, especially the provinces of Judea and Galilee, and the Samaritan woman who came to draw water. There were also the disciples of Jesus, who went to buy food and returned later. In the beginning, I saw Jesus coming and sitting by Jacob’s well because of weariness from the northbound journey. Then came the woman of Samaria. Jesus initiated the conversation by asking her to give Him a drink, for by this time His disciples have already gone into the city to buy food. Shocked, the Samaritan woman replied that how could a male Jew, being in Samaria, ask a drink from a grown female Samaritan. Jesus did not answer her question directly, but went on to indicate that He could offer her a kind of “living water,” which is a “gift of God.” At first, the Samaritan woman did not seem to understand that Jesus was not talking about a natural thirst but a spiritual concept, so she inquired Jesus where and how He could acquire this “living water.” It seemed she doubted Jesus’ claims because she might have thought He was speaking out of presumption and arrogance. I think she sort of challenged Him by saying that Jesus could not possibly be someone greater than Jacob, who gave them the well. It is vastly interesting to note that Jesus, being as great a Person as He was, did not take offence at the woman’s questioning at all. In fact, He did not even seem to care about their ethnic differences and all the complicated issues that entail as a result. Moreover, He somehow knew that the woman was feeling empty inside, craving for something or someone to fill the void in her life. Thus, He responded her by an offer of a “living water” as the “solution” for her. This water would become a well in the heart of the recipient and “spring up to eternal life.” He promised that whomever drinks of this “living water” would never thirst again. Jesus illustrated this spiritual principle by a natural example. He was basically saying that as one who drinks natural water will always thirst again, no earthly things could ever permanently fulfill the God-shaped vacuum of the heart. In short, He asked the woman for a drink of physical water to satisfy His thirst, and in exchange, He wanted the woman to ask from Him a greater spiritual fountainhead to gratify the thirst of her life.
At this point, I was not sure what the Samaritan woman was thinking, perhaps the disappointments from all the things in her life that never really satisfied her. Anyhow, she did seem to understand Jesus’ message more and asked Him for this living water. Jesus replied by requesting her to bring her husband along and receive together. Upon hearing this, the woman seemed a bit agitated, and answered that she has no husband. Jesus then continued her reply by reaffirming her statement, but pointed out that the truth is she has had five husbands, and the one whom she now has is not her husband. I marveled at the way that Jesus brought up this personal matter in such a way that was not only so divinely accurate, but also divinely sensitive and compassionate. It was almost like an addendum to their original discussion topic. The Samaritan woman now perceived that the Jewish man speaking to her is no ordinary man, but a prophet. She might have tried to change subject, but she seemed equally sincere in expressing her next concern. She is a Samaritan, and unlike Jews who worship in Jerusalem, Samaritans worship on Mt. Gerizim. So which place is the chosen place for proper worship? Jesus clarified that true worship of the Father is not about a place, but about the heart condition of the worshippers, namely that they should worship in “spirit and in truth.” In fact, He said that the Father is enthusiastically seeking for true worshippers who are worshipping in spirit and in truth, whether it is in Jerusalem or Mt. Gerizim is irrelevant. However, Jesus did point out that “salvation is from the Jews,” implying that Jerusalem was the chosen place for Temple worship, but only for a time until the Messiah comes and accomplishes the work of salvation. Since Samaritans also believed in a coming Messiah like the Jews, the woman then said to Jesus that she knew that when the Messiah comes, “He will declare all things.” Calmly but firmly, Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” At this moment, the disciples of Jesus returned, and were marveling at the fact that Jesus was talking with a Samaritan woman. And the woman ran back to her own city to report all that she has seen and heard, to testify that she has met the long-awaited Messiah today. In the meantime, Jesus told His disciples that a spiritual harvest of people are ready to be reaped. As a result of the Samaritan woman’s witness, many in her city came to believe that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.
Observing from a distance, I thought this event is so significant in the life and ministry of Christ. It was only the very first year of Jesus’ public ministry. Yet this incident openly declared that Jesus, a pure Jew, is the Messiah for both Jews and Samaritans. Not only that, being the God-Man, Jesus has set forth clearly the heart of the Father, that His salvation through the Christ is for all people regardless of their gender, race, ethnic background or even personal failures. There is an order in which God works out His plans. Although He started out the plan of salvation from the Jews so that the focus of Jesus’ ministry was primarily to the Jews, however, here He has demonstrated that God’s heart is that all to obtain the living water of eternal salvation, and that eventually this glad tidings will be shared to all peoples to the ends of the earth. When I was listening to their conversation, I cannot help but to feel a strong sense of total love and acceptance flowing out from Jesus towards the woman, which was also warming my heart to the core. Coupled with His supernatural prophetic utterance that revealed the woman’s condition, I cannot help but to kneel right at where I was and confess that Jesus is truly the Messiah from above. I thought to myself that the greatest wonder has just transpired right before of my own eyes. Here is the most righteous and holy One, worthy to judge all the wrongdoings of the world, yet I could not trace out the slightest tint of condemnation or condescension in Jesus’ demeanor in speaking with the Samaritan lady. Instead, all I felt was love and truth that were intended to help her, which carried a heavenly presence that was not of this world. I have wondered why the name of the woman of Samaria was never mentioned. Besides keeping the woman’s identity confidential, could it also be that it is because she was symbolic of all the people of the world? Actually, she is quite a perfect model of a complete social outcast. She was a woman, she was a Samaritan, which was a cult to the Jews, and she had five marriage failures plus the current one that is ambiguous. But when she has come face-to-face with the living Messiah, she found out that He was someone who was looking to rescue her and invite her to a life of eternal blessedness. It was real, it was genuine, and it was so sincere that her life was completely turned around; she even brought this great news to all her town folks so they all were blessed because of her as well. I believe the timeless moral of this short but life-changing event was that the Messiah has come to give life and hope to all who are thirsty. When one is looking for a meaning and purpose in life, when one is searching for answers to life’s harshest disappointments, when one is longing for an unconditional affection and embrace, that one will find these in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Today this same Jesus is still calling those who are hungry and thirsty. He is still on a journey seeking those who are brokenhearted and contrite. Jesus truly is the Messiah for both Jews and Samaritans—and everyone.
 The Synoptic Gospels all recorded events with the Jewish time system. But some believe that the Gospel of John uses the Roman counting of time, therefore, the “sixth hour” is either six a.m. or six p.m. Nevertheless, some still see the Jewish way of calculating time in the Gospel of John, which has its “first hour” starting from six a.m.. Hence, the “sixth hour” would be twelve p.m..
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