The woman at the well appeared surprised to be approached by Jesus as she was a Samaritan and Jews did not have relations with Samaritans. As the longest documented conversation Jesus had with anyone continued, Jesus tore down barriers as she focused on division.
For Jesus to approach her was unseen of at this time, not only because she was a Samaritan. He was a rabbi and a rabbi would not speak to a woman in public. He was sinless and she was a sinner. Barriers and more barriers. As the conversation continued, the barriers can be seen again and again. She was focused on physical human limitations. She was focused on her physical needs, on what would make her life easier. When Jesus mentioned her living arrangements, rather than address the sin she switched the subject. She again put up a barrier. She addressed religion when Jesus addresses relationship.
Each of us have a choice to have a relationship with Jesus Christ or to focus on something or someone else. We can put up barriers again and again. Jesus still reaches across the barriers and invites us to do life with Him. Today evaluate your life and look for any barriers you might have that keep you from your walk with Jesus. Are you drowning in sin? Are you following God’s will? These items are barriers to your relationship with Jesus. Are you spending time each day in the Word? Do you pray daily? Do you listen to the Holy Spirit? Are you serving? Are you actively involved with a church? These items are bridges that bring you closer to Him. You can build up barriers or build up bridges. Choose life.
“For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach–if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.” – Colossians 1:19-23 [NASB]
Reading John 4:4-42
Beyond the Text: Samaritans
Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. but was resettled by pagan people to replace the Israelites. “Each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled… They worshiped the LORD, but they also
served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.” The Samaritans stemmed from a mixture of surviving North Israelites (Jews) with various foreigners – people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (see 2 Kings 17). The Samaritans were forbidden to help build the temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 4:3-4) so they set up their own temple on Mount Gerizim (the site actually commanded by Moses for the temple according to their understanding of Deuteronomy 12:5. These bad feelings continued—in 128 B.C. John Hyrcanus, a Jewish high priest, invaded Samaria and destroyed their temple. Later the Samaritans sneaked into the temple in Jerusalem and defiled it by scattering corpses all around. In the days Jesus walked the earth, the Jews had no dealings with Samaritans (John 4:9). Many strict Jews would walk the long way to get to their destination to avoid walking though Samaria. The Samaritans considered themselves Jews but they worshiped in their own distinctive way. They were devoted to the Law and kept the festivals. They expected the coming of a prophet (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19). They did not acknowledge the Jerusalem temple. The used their own version of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible). Some scholars believe they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.
The story of the Woman of Samaria or the Woman at the Well is the longest documented discussion a person had with Jesus that we find in the Bible. What does this say about salvation?
What was the woman’s response when Jesus asked for water? Why? (v. 9)
When Jesus spoke of living water, what was the woman’s focus? (v. 11)
When the woman asked for the water Jesus offered, what was her reason? (v. 15)
Jesus mentioned the woman had five husbands and was now living with a man that was not her husband. How did the woman react to His statement? (v. 19-20)
The woman stated that she knew the Messiah was coming. Jesus’ response was “I who speak to you am He” (v. 26). Jesus did not travel around professing that He is the Messiah. Why was this situation different than others?
Theme Discussion – Barriers
Peter, Andrew, James and John were fisherman. They left behind their fishing nets to follow Jesus. In verse 28, we read that the woman left her water jar and went into the town to tell people to come and see Jesus. The water jar was valuable to the woman (for daily water needs, costly to replace). To be in a closer relationship with Jesus, one must leave behind the past (sin) and remove any barriers. One of the devil’s greatest joys is to keep us surrounded by barriers to keep our eyes off of Jesus, to keep our eyes out of the Word and to keep our mouth from proclaiming the Good News.
Approaching this woman at the well broke many barriers. What barriers did Jesus break?
We can see two sides of the spectrum when we look at Jesus and the woman from Samaria. Jesus represents grace, the woman represents law. Jesus represents everlasting life. The woman represents everyday life. When Jesus mentioned her situation (living in sin), she changed the conversation from relationship to religion. How do we put up barriers? How can we be a bridge?
When she understood Who Jesus is, what did she do? What happened when the barriers were removed and the eyes were opened? (v 28-30, 39-42).
What barriers keep you from being in a closer relationship with Jesus?
As I drove down the street, I noticed that the sidewalk that was recently redone to allow pedestrians safer travel was being changed. It made no sense to me why there was any need to do more work to the area. When I peered closer, I noticed that the sidewalk was constructed to purposely block people from easy access to the church that was located in the same area. There was a barrier making it more difficult for someone to enter the church.
I thought to myself about this barrier and how it reminded me of the barriers that are all around us when it comes to church. There are some people who are kept from going to church. There are others who are turned away from the church. There are others who do not feel welcomed at church. Of course, there are others who want nothing to do with church or with God. From my vantage point, so many people are unable to pass one of these barriers.
During the Christmas season, more people walk through the church doors; some people have not entered since last year and for others it is their first time in a church. I encourage you to be welcoming to all as Christ was loving and caring for the needs of all people. The church is not a building. We are the church. We are called to be a holy people, set apart for God. Let us remember this special calling and act upon it. Let us reach out and hold the door open to all who wish to enter, and even go the extra mile to invite those who have never entered and who aren’t very interested in coming. Shine the Light.
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
– Romans 15:7 [ESV]