“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.” John 4:1–6 (ESV)
Notice the narrator’s comment in verse four, “[Jesus] had to pass through Samaria.”
A good Jewish person would never have traveled through Samaria because this was unfriendly, impure territory. Hatred between Jews and Samaritans went back over 500 years when Samaritans intermarried with pagan foreigners and established their own temple for worship (Ezra 4:1-5). So most Jews would have taken the extra long route to avoid Samaria. Yet, Jesus walked right through these barriers and wearied himself from passing through.
Why did Jesus have to walk through this unlikely territory? Perhaps he didn’t have time to go around. Perhaps he was prompted by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps he felt strongly he needed to take a stand against the socio-cultural barriers of his day. The Apostle John doesn’t directly answer this question but we can surmise Jesus was doing it for a reason because for all intended purposes Jesus disregarded unspoken signs stating “no trespassing – Jews prohibited.”
Does the love of God ever compel you to go to places human divisions tell you to avoid? How could you join with Jesus today in breaking through barriers between you and other people for the sake of God’s barrier-free good news?
By Yvonne Biel