I was recently working on a message from John 4.1-30, Jesus and the Samaritan woman. As he’s writing this account, John feels it’s necessary to insert an editorial note here: “For Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4.9).
The roots of this contempt run deep – over 700 years deep! After the Northern Kingdom of Israel is conquered by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., many from Israel are forcefully relocated throughout the Assyrian Empire. At the same time, people from across the Assyrian empire are relocated into Israel. And they bring their foreign gods. Over time, the worship of YHWH is mixed with all sorts of other foreign influences. Over time, some of the northern Jews began to intermarry with other groups. Over time, the Jews from Judea came to see these Samaritans (as they came to be called) as worse off then Gentiles… because had the revelation of God, but then sullied it up by mixing in pagan traditions. This separation came to a head in 400 BC, when Samaritans built their own temple at Mount Gerizim.
So, by the time Jesus and his disciples show up at the well, society has put a huge barrier between Jesus and this woman – a barrier with 100’s of years of cultural weight.
Yet Jesus speaks to her… Jesus reaches out… Jesus takes the initiative. And let’s not think that Jesus is bumping into this woman at the well by coincidence. Verse 4 says that Jesus “had to go through Samaria” – I don’t think that John is talking about a geographic necessity as much as he recognizes that Jesus had a divine appointment; Jesus was on a mission.
And by simply speaking to this woman, Jesus is making a point: my purpose here (at this well, with this woman) is greater than the social barriers that separate us! Hear this: Jesus’ heart for the lost propels Him to defy social norms and cultural expectations…
I wonder: What about my heart? Do I share Jesus’ passion for the lost? Does my heart for the lost propel me to defy cultural expectations?
the kind of career I pursue;
the kind of car I drive;
the kind of house I live in;
the type of people with whom I associate.
These are culturally-loaded choices! Is our response culture-driven, or gospel-driven?
Jesus’ example is clear: God’s heart for people far from Him is greater and more important than our comfort level in the culture!
What about you?
Does your heart for the gospel and for the lost reflect Jesus’? Jesus is far greater than the norms and expectations of our culture, which are shaping us into its image. Don’t be afraid to revolt (just make sure that you’re rebelling against the right things); fight against our culture’s attempts to mold us into its image… so that we might be shaped into a far more beautiful image – the image of Christ!