Jesus hung with a lot of people that most of his culture wouldn’t hang out with. One such occasion happens in John 4:7-26. In Jesus’ culture, women were looked down upon, as were Samaritans. This was a “double no no” for Jesus. Jesus style ministry breaks down these “boundaries” and goes straight to people’s hearts. It didn’t matter her cultural background, it didn’t matter she was a woman and it didn’t matter that she was a sinner.
This woman was part of a culture that was mixed up. Samaritans had mixed blood, mixed religions and mixed up views about God. For a Jew to be seen with a Samaritan, any Samaritan would’ve been bad, but to be seen with a Samaritan woman (who had an especially bad rap, even among the Samaritans) would’ve been unheard of. His decision to talk to her as well as listen to her was unique and out of the normal realm of possibility. Jewish people were pretty racist against the Samaritans and here we see Jesus deciding not to bow to those cultural pressures, in fact he breaks out of them!
The greatest thing to me about this story is that Jesus initiates the whole thing. The woman was coming out at a time when she didn’t expect anyone to be at the well (the Scripture says she came out at about noon and noon was when it would be the hottest) and there was this Jewish man sitting there. Her plan was to ignore him as a good Samaritan should ignore a prominent Jew, but Jesus asks her for a drink of water.
Jesus then shares who she is and what she has been about, to which she is amazed at his knowing so intimately the details of her life. Jesus then shares with her who He is and the knowledge of who Jesus is changes this woman completely, which is evidenced by her new evangelistic lifestyle (John 4:29 & 39).
Due to the cultural no no’s that Jesus was just committing, when the disciples return to Jesus, they are understandably shocked at the scene they see: Jesus chatting casually with a Samaritan Woman. Jesus uses this moment of perplexity to teach his disciples about God’s heart for humanity. He demands of them to open their eyes and see that people of all cultures and all backgrounds are ready to hear of the Lord’s goodness. He tells them to see the harvest that is available for the Kingdom of God to which they are blind because of their cultural box. In this conversation one can sense the rebuke that Jesus give them. It’s almost like he’s saying: “Hey Blind guys, open your eyes, take off your blinders and see what I see! Stop putting me in a box, stop putting my ministry in a box. There are people out there who need to hear about me and what I came to do and you are hindering that! Open your eyes and get to work on the stuff I’ve prepared for you to do!”
Not only did Jesus say this, but he demonstrated it by his actions. He was a more prominent Jew than his disciples were. He had more to “lose” by hanging around and talking to that woman but he proved he didn’t care and he pointed out their prejudice by showing them how they’ve been blind. After Jesus rebukes them at the end of the scene in John, we see that several people come to believe in him because of that one woman’s witness of him. I am sure he looks at them afterwards and says: “Did you guys see the harvest that we reaped today? There is more than that to come if you can open your eyes. It’s just like I said: the harvest is ready!”
Jesus used this scene well to teach his disciples the importance of cross-cultural ministry and to break them out of their box of prejudice that they were living in. This story is for us, the Church as well because sadly we too box up the Gospel with our own prejudices and deny people access whom we shouldn’t be barring from the grace of Christ. We, like Christ and like the disciples should be reaching across culture to proclaim the good news of Jesus. We shouldn’t be stopped short by our foolish notions of the world.
This story brings many implications to us as a people. One implication is that we should seek the Lord on where we are blind because we are all blind in one way or another. If it’s not racism, it could be sexism or ageism. Somewhere in our view of the world, we are blinding ourselves to the harvest that could be reaped and we need the help of the Holy Spirit to open up our eyes and see where we’ve boxed people out.
Another implication is that we need to fear no cultural taboo that may be out there. Jesus went across the tracks on three accounts: ethnicity, sex and reputation. He let none of those taboos stop him from preaching the gospel to the Samaritan woman. This leads us to a third implication: Make the Word our highest court of judgment. If your culture tells you its wrong to hang with or speak with a certain person, go to the Bible and see what God says. If it isn’t in the Bible, don’t bow to it. Too often we become religious fanatics about extra-biblical revelation as the Pharisees were. We have to be careful to heed God’s word, not man’s addition to God’s word.
Lastly, we can see the implication of Heaven being made up of many different people, not just people like ourselves. Heaven will be a beautiful mosaic that reflects all of humanity, so we need to begin to embrace that truth now, because if we don’t eternity may be hard!