Sapphire Sky

November 30, 2014

What about people who are not like you?

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 2:51 pm

The news is filled lately with reports of racial and political tension across the country.  Sadly, this tension has spilled out into violence, destroying people in its wake.

I had an opportunity to visit the Middle East earlier this year, during the time of the recent fighting in Gaza.  It does not take much to find conflict between different groups: Israeli vs. Palestinian, Muslim vs. Christian, Sunni vs. Shiite Muslim, etc.

Well-meaning preachers like to tell “what Jesus would do” in these situations.  But most often, their descriptions of Jesus look like themselves, and their view of Jesus is limited to advancing their own agendas.  Their descriptions of Jesus look a lot less like the Eternal Son of God, and a lot more like a noble person out to clean up the world.

But Jesus did (indirectly) show an example of dealing with people across racial, political, ethnic, and religious divisions.  I had a chance to study another bitter battle between two different groups this past week.

In 722 B.C., the Assyrian army conquered the kingdom of Israel and destroyed the capital city of Samaria (see 2 Kings 17:1-6). The Assyrians removed most of the Jewish inhabitants of the Samaria region and replaced them with foreigners.  These foreigners intermarried with the remaining Jews and also mingled their own religious practices with the native Jewish beliefs.

It was almost 200 years later, in 538 B.C., when Jews were allowed to return from exile and they began to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The native people (known as Samaritans) offered to help rebuild the temple but were refused because of their mixed blood and mixed beliefs (see Ezra and Nehemiah).  Instead, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim.

“On all public occasions the Samaritans took the part hostile to the Jews, while they seized every opportunity of injuring and insulting them.” [1]  During the Hasmonean revolts of the 2nd century B.C., the Samaritans supported the Syrian “oppressors” (The Samaritan temple was destroyed by Hasmoneans).

The Samaritans considered themselves descendants of Jacob but believed only the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy).  They did not respect the worship in Jerusalem but held to their own worship on Mt. Gerizim. [2]

By the time of Jesus, the Samaritans were bitterly hated by the Jews and were considered unclean by the devout Jews.  Many Jews would travel several miles out of their way to avoid going through Samaria and to avoid any contact with the Samaritans. The term “Samaritan” was also synonymous with “heretic” or “foreigner” (see Luke 17:16-18, John 8:48).

This is the history of the bitterness between the Samaritans and the Jews.  However, Jesus is most known in this section for ignoring the protocols and the problems between the two groups.  Jesus meets an immoral, outcast Samaritan woman and he has these simple messages for her:

Jesus is the Savior of the world (John 4:42).  Jesus is not for our world, not for the Jewish world, but the entire world.  Jesus came for the righteous, upstanding Nicodemus (John 3) just as much as he came for the immoral, outcast Samaritan woman (John 4). 

We will study the contents of these messages in a later post.

 

Previous Post: The Competition


John 4:1-9

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.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)


 

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.

 Jesus leaves the scene of controversy in Judea and heads north to Galilee.  Samaria is located directly between Judea and Galilee, so Jesus either needs to travel several miles out of the way (like the devout Jews) or go through Samaria.  Practically, speaking, the shortest route required him to go through Samaria.  But even more than that, we see in this chapter that Jesus needed to be in Samaria for a meeting that God had set up for him.

 

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.

 Jesus arrives at the Samaritan town of Sychar at about 6:00 p.m. [3], having walked all day.  Sychar (near the ancient city of Shechem) is rich with history, dating back to the time of Jacob.  Jacob had purchased this land from the local inhabitants (see Genesis 33:19) and built a well which was still in use to that day.

 The well was about a half-mile south of Sychar, where Jesus sat to rest, being weary from his journey. Jesus was fully God, yet in his humanity he can become weary and thirsty.

 

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

 “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans”. The fact they the disciples have just gone into the Samaritan town to buy food shows that this is a generalization. Jews would trade with Samaritans but avoid social interaction.  A narrower interpretation is also possible, that literally the Jews don’t “drink from the same cup” as Samaritans. The most orthodox Jews also believed that a Jew would be ceremonially unclean if he drank from a Samaritan woman’s vessel.

 We learn more about the woman later in the chapter. She has been married five times and is now living unmarried with her current boyfriend (John 4:18). Even among Samaritans, this woman would have had a bad reputation.This was not the closest well to town and the woman may have skipped the closer wells in order to avoid the other women of the town.

 Jesus has violated several rules of protocol by simply by talking to this woman. In that culture, a man would not talk to a woman in public; a Jew would not talk to a Samaritan; most of all, a rabbi would never be near a woman with an immoral reputation.

 


[1] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Section III, “The Ascent”, Chapters vii-viii.

[2] John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible Notes, John 4

[3] John’s gospel account uses Roman time reckoning, starting at midnight and noon.  Therefore, the sixth hour would be 6:00 pm.  Note that the other gospel accounts use Jewish time reckoning which starts at 6:00 am.  Therefore, some commentators have interpreted the “sixth hour” here as noon.  However, the Roman time reckoning better fits the narrative in John based on the following:

  • John 1:39 indicates that Andrew and Peter meet Jesus at the tenth hour and spend the day with him. Jewish reckoning would put their meeting at 4:00 pm, when most of the day would have been spent.  Roman reckoning would put their meeting at 10:00 am.
  • The disciples went to buy food in John 4. Food was not bought and sold at noontime so the narrative of John 4 better fits an evening time.
  • John 19:14 indicates that Jesus was led out from Pilate at “about the sixth hour”.  Yet Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, and Luke 23:44 tell about the darkness when Jesus was on the cross, starting at the sixth hour.  Therefore, John’s gospel account must be using a different time reckoning than the other gospel accounts.  However, this sequence of events fits well if Jesus was led from Pilate at 6:00 am, and the darkness began at noon.

2 Comments »

  1. […] bring against Jesus. The word, “Samaritan”, was the common term for a heretic (see here) and was used against unbelieving Jews. But this accusation was also, once again, another personal […]

    Pingback by The Truth Will Set You Free | Sapphire Sky — April 24, 2015 @ 1:34 pm

  2. […] time was about the sixth hour. By Roman time reckoning, it was therefore about 6:00 a.m (see here). The Day of Preparation was Friday, the day before the Sabbath, on the Passover […]

    Pingback by Before the Governor | Sapphire Sky — November 15, 2015 @ 2:14 pm


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