After the festival, Christ and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside where he spent some time with them through the spring. In early summer he decided to return to Galilee. When he took the road north through Samaria, it surprised the disciples. Everyone knew Jews had no contact with Samaritans and usually travelers would return by way of the Jordan, avoiding this area between Judea and Galilee altogether. But Jesus had a divine appointment to keep in Sychar.
Hostility sprang up when the Israelites returned from their Babylonian captivity in 538 B.C. and resettled the Promised Land. The Samaritans were descendants of the survivors of Israel who had intermarried with foreigners and were considered religiously unclean to the Jews, even though their hopes and religious beliefs were similar. Eventually the Samaritans built their own Temple on rugged Mount Gerizim close to Sychar. Here they offered their sacrifices and worshipped God as the Jews did in Jerusalem. The rivalry between the two Temples was a bitter as the hatred between the two races.
It was noon when Jesus and his small band emerged into the rich plain of Samaria. Far as the eye could sweep, fields were already planted for the fall harvest. It was just a short walk to the well of Jacob outside the city of Sychar. This well was named for the piece of ground Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, had dug and left as a memorial of his first and symbolic possession of the land. Two important routes came together there with a beautiful view of Mount Gerizims Temple. After their arrival, Christ sent his disciples into town to buy food, which was considered clean, while John remained with the Master who sat wearily at the wells edge.
No one would be expected to come and draw water at this hour and it was hard work lifting it from over one hundred feet below the surface. But someone did show up unknowingly for her divine appointmenta sinful woman who did not want to be detected. To avoid the cruel stares of the other women of her town, Naomi came with bucket and jar, thinking to find the well deserted. But it wasnt; a man was resting there and he seemed friendly as she came to draw water. By his dress she recognized him as a Jewa Rabbi, no less. How unusual for Jews to venture into Samaria, so intense was the hatred between them. She hoped he wouldnt bother her since rabbis were forbidden to speak to women in public. But Christ was the first one who treated all men and women equally.
As the womans dripping bucket reached the top, Jesus spoke, Will you give me a drink?
Naomi was stunned. With trembling hands she offered the water, amazed to see a Jew accepting a Samaritan bucket. He was not what she thought and knew of them. Now she had a question, You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?
The glory of his divine personality suddenly broke through the clouds of weariness and hunger, If you only knew the gift of God and who I am, you would ask me and I would give you living water. Gift of God, an Eastern expression for water, had both a natural and spiritual meaning.
But sir, you dont have a rope or a bucket, and this is a very deep well, she reasoned. Where would you get this living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob who gave us the well? Like Nicodemus, Naomi interpreted it to have a physical meaning. She assumed living water came from the well, and Jesus had no way to draw it.
The Teacher explained, People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.
Sir, Naomi exclaimed, give me this water! Then I shall never be thirsty again, nor have to come here to haul water. Her faith begin to rise. She believed he could give her perpetual water, but still didnt understand its source.
Go call your husband.
I have no husband.
You have spoken the truth. Although you have had five husbands, the man you are living with now is not your husband.
This amazing man identified her sin. Realizing he was no ordinary rabbi, Naomi said, Sir, I perceive you are a prophet. The blackness of her sinful life loomed before her. There was only one thing to doget right with God.
But which Temple was the right one? That was her new concern; her mind was taken up with a place where one goes to get right with God. With the Prophet standing before her, perhaps he could giver her the answer to that age-old question. Gesturing toward nearby Mt. Gerazim, she said, Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews say Jerusalem is the only place to worship God.
Aware of what was on her mind the Lord explained, You Samaritans know so little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is at hand when your worship of the Father will have nothing to do with a specific place, neither here nor at Jerusalem. Genuine worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; in fact, this is exactly the kind of worshippers the Father wantseven seeks.
Jesus lead Naomi beyond the controversy of which mountain was the right place of worship. He repeated his profound statement, God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. It was the higher worship of a common Father according to his nature; worship neither of Jews nor of Samaritans, but of children. No other way could be acceptable to God. A more Christ-like teaching than this could not be uttered. This astounding revelation was not disclosed to his disciples, nor to the rulers of Israelbut to a Samaritan woman who spoke the truth!
Her faith rose even further, When the Messiah comes he will teach us all these things. Naomi had come nearer still; she added the Jewish reference to the Messiah and knew he was coming. Her words were really asking if he was the Christ. Her soul responded in spirit and truth; her head didnt grasp it all, but her heart was ready.
He answered her truthfully and clearly, I AM who is talking with you. It communicated the sacred I AM of Yahweh. This soul cried out, and Jesus answered. Nothing more was needed; she had found her Lord.
At that moment his disciples returned and were astonished to find him talking with a woman of Samaria. It was so contrary to all Judean notions of a rabbi, yet in their reverence for him they dared not ask any questions.
Naomi, forgetful of her errand and only conscious of that new wellspring of life which had risen within her, left the unfilled water pot by the well. She hurried back to the village and told everyone, Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did! Can this be the Messiah?
Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, Rabbi, have something to eat.
No, he said, I have food to eat you know nothing about.
Who brought it to him? the disciples asked each other. It was not the only, or the last, instance of their dullness to spiritual realities.
Yet with divine patience he bore with them, My nourishment comes from doing the will of God who sent me until I have finished his work.
Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because of what the woman had said. When the people came streaming from the village to see him, they begged him to stay. He taught there for two days, long enough for many of them to hear his message and believe. As they listened to his word, for these people of simple faith it was the deepest and purest truth they ever learned. Since Naomi had repented of her sins and brought the Savior to them, the Samaritans welcomed her back into their community. The outcast had been restored, not through the hopeless hunger of physical love, but through simple faith and divine love of God.
They said to her, Now we believe because we have heard him ourselves, not just because of what you told us. He is indeed the Savior of the world.
When the two days were over Jesus left for Galilee. Along the way the disciples were wondering, Could it be possible for Samaritans enter the Kingdom of God as well as the Jews?