A devotional adapted by Claudia Cruz Martínez from William Barclay’s commentary:
“The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” John 4:9
The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman is well-known. There are so many lessons that we can take from this passage, but in this short scripture, the idea is to reflect on the preeminence of the love of Jesus over cultural barriers.
First of all, let us set the scene of this incident. Palestine is only 200 km from north to south, but in the time of Jesus it was divided into three parts. Galilee was in the north, Judah in the south, and Samaria was in the middle. At this stage in his ministry, Jesus wanted to transfer his operations to Galilee. To take the shortest route, he had to pass through Samaria, but a centuries-old feud between the Jews and the Samaritans complicated things. For a Jew, the safer route was to cross the Jordan River, head north on the eastern edge, and then cross the Jordan River again into the high country of Galilee. The safer route took twice as long. Jesus chose the shorter route that cut through Samaria, possibly not only to gain time but also to fulfill part of his mission.
In this passage we see Jesus breaking down the cultural and racial barriers of the people of his time in several ways:
- Jesus dared to cross Samaritan territory.
- The disciples bought food in a Samaritan town (it is unlikely that they would have done that themselves without Jesus requesting it).
- Jesus showed his true human character, his weariness and his thirst.
- Jesus showed his love and compassion by speaking with a woman. In that time men did not seek out conversations with women. Usually they would not even speak directly to them. This woman would have been ashamed that a religious leader of the day would speak with her. Added to this, she unknowingly had allowed Jesus to discover her sinful condition, because of the hour of the day in which she went to draw water.
- Jesus broke down the racial barrier. This woman was a Samaritan. The struggle between the Jews and the Samaritans was an old one. For that reason, the woman was surprised that Jesus spoke to her. Jesus broke down national and racial prejudices.
What cultural barriers do we need to tear down today? What barriers have infiltrated and grown up in our churches? When was the last time that you tried to cross a border to give a message of hope and love?
“Here was the Son of God, tired and weary and thirsty. Here was the holiest of men, listening with understanding to a sorry story. Here was Jesus breaking through the barriers of nationality and orthodox Jewish custom. Here is the beginning of the universality of the gospel; here is God so loving the world, not in theory, but in action.” William Barclay
*Claudia Cruz serves as the youth pastor in the Betania Church of the Nazarene in Ciudad Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Mexico. She is also the Global Mission Coordinator for the Mexico Field.