Do you ever have a moment when something you’ve read hundreds of times hits you with a new insight you can’t believe you missed before?
I had one of those moments this morning while reading the gospel of John. The contrast of how the Jews and the Samaritans reacted to the Savior struck me hard.
Read Luke 4.
Jesus is enjoying a rare moment of solitude beside Jacob’s well. Maybe he’s remembering when Jacob built that well; recalling the joy of the workmen when fresh, cool water first bubbled through with its refreshing and life-sustaining substance.
No doubt it’s hot and a thirsty Jesus looks with longing at the opening of a well without a bucket in place for a thirsty traveler to draw water for himself. (I don’t know about you, but that seems rather inhospitable.) With the full ability to draw water without a bucket, Jesus won’t. He is patient. He knows who is coming his way.
Across the field comes a Samaritan woman. It’s in the heat of the day, and she walks alone, an outcast, even among her own people. No doubt she is none too pleased to find company at the well. The company of a Jew is even less welcome.
In my mind’s eye, Jesus smiles. That is the first surprise for the wary local. There are more surprises to come.
He asks for a drink of water.
Something so simple.
The woman is shocked. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. (John 4:8-10)
In the next few verses, Jesus lets her know he knows who she is, and knowing everything, he doesn’t reject her. He calls her to drink what only he can offer. He point blank reveals to her who he is. The Messiah, the Christ.
This is something he hesitates to openly reveal to the Jews.
The Samaritan woman believes. Not only does she believe, but she rushes back to the city and tells all the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”
The people listen and follow her to see for themselves. We’re told many believe because of the woman’s testimony. Many more believe after hearing Jesus’s words for themselves.
There is no record of Jesus healing the blind, lame or physically ailing while in Samaria. His words are sufficient.
What a contrast to his reception when he returns to his own country and to the chosen people. The following chapters of Luke are full of stories where Jesus reaches out, heals, and teaches. Instead of rejoicing, the church tries to destroy him.
Despite seeing signs and wonders, the people are divided. Faith comes hard. The leaders find his influence unbearable.
What is the difference?
Are some so secure in their ancestry, their rituals, their “chosen-ness” that they can’t recognize the one who chose them in the first place? Do they think themselves too good to mix with someone outside of their circles? Do they not thirst?
Are others so aware of their inadequacy that they soak up offered salvation like a dry sponge drinks water? The Samaritans believe an outcast. They recognize truth when they hear it.
What makes some thirsty, and others not?
“Whoever drinks of the water I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
Are you thirsty?
He sits at the well and beckons us to come. To drink.