John 4:1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, 2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) 3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. 4 And he must needs go through Samaria.
Verse 4 sounds like a simple enough statement; yet if we had been living during the days of Jesus, we would have known that it was anything but simple. Jesus was about to do something that any other Jew of His day would have avoided. Jesus was about to enter into a place every other Jew hated.
I. He Must Needs Go Through Samaria
Galilee was a region that lay directly north of Judea. Jesus was from Galilee and so were most of His disciples. The shortest route from Judea to Galilee was to go straight north. Yet most Jews didn’t take the shortest route. They would take a route that would add several miles to their journey. Why in the world would someone intentionally make the route longer? One word told the reason – “Samaria.”
A. History of Samaria
About a thousand years before Christ, a king named David ruled Israel. This is the same David who as a boy killed Goliath with a sling and a stone. After David’s death, his son Solomon became the next king. During David and Solomon’s reign, Israel enjoyed unprecedented power and prosperity. But after Solomon’s death, there was a division in the nation. Solomon wanted his son to be the next king, while many of the people wanted another man. And so there was a political split. Two of the twelve tribes (Judah and Benjamin) banded together and formed what was known as the Southern Kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. The other ten tribes banded together and formed a kingdom known as the Northern Kingdom and made the city of Samaria its capital.
This division lasted for the next several hundred years. During this time period the Northern Kingdom had many kings and every one of them was evil. No doubt you’ve heard of wicked King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel. Finally, after 200 years of this wickedness, the Lord caused the Assyrians to invade the Northern Kingdom and to conquer them. Through this invasion many of the Jewish people were captured and led away into captivity. To replace the Jews that were carried away into captivity, the Assyrians brought in prisoners of war from other nations. Thus Samaria became known as a region of half-breeds. This was true not only nationally, but also spiritually. The religion of Samaria became a mixture of Judaism and paganism.
B. Hatred of Samaria
After the years of captivity were over, many of the Jews of the Northern Kingdom tried to rejoin themselves with the Jews of the Southern Kingdom. But the Southern Kingdom refused any form of alliance and thus there became a deep division and hatred between the two groups. Eventually the Samaritans established their own temple and religious services on Mt. Gerizim which is located in the region that became known as Samaria.
This animosity and hatred still existed during the days of Jesus. Note the Samaritan woman’s reply when Jesus asked her for a drink –
John 4:9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
Wiersbe writes in his commentary – “So intense was their dislike of the Samaritans that some of the Pharisees prayed that no Samaritan would be raised in the resurrection!”
This hatred can also be seen by something the Pharisees said to Jesus. “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” (Jn 8:48) They were putting a double slam on Jesus. “Not only are you possessed by demons, you’re a Samaritan!” Probably they said this because they had heard that Jesus had spent time in Samaria.
II. He Must Needs Go To Samaria
John 4:4 And he must needs go through Samaria.
Perhaps a better translation would be – “He must needs go TO Samaria.” Jesus was not just looking for the shortest route from Judea to Galilee. Jesus had a special purpose for going into Samaria. Pink writes in his commentary, “From all eternity it had been ordained that He should go through Samaria.” Christ’s journey into Samaria was intentional. Why did Jesus need to go to Samaria?
John 4:5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
Though the Jews hated the Samaritans, God loved them. God did not love their sin, but God loved their souls. In the chapter just prior to this our Lord said –
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Who did Jesus come to save? Jesus came to save everyone who will in faith turn to Him and receive Him as their Savior. The Bible says –
Romans 3:10 There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. That is why all men need a Savior. The Jews needed a Savior and so did the Samaritans and so do everyone in this world.
III. We Must Needs Go Wherever God Sends Us
Just before Jesus ascended back to heaven He spoke these words to His disciples-
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
This was a tough lesson for the disciples to learn. This is a tough lesson for many of us to learn as well. Our world today is changing rapidly and it frightens most of us. America is not what is used to be and I doubt very seriously if it ever will be again. Most Christians are praying for the Rapture. We want the Lord to come and take us to heaven and to get us out of all of this. That would indeed be nice, but what if it doesn’t happen in our lifetime? What if the Lord’s return is not for another 100 or 1,000 years? No one knows the day or the hour when Christ will return. Yet we do know the reason why it has not happened yet.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish , but that all should come to repentance.
The reason Jesus hasn’t yet returned is because there are still people who need to be saved. There are still people in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and in the uttermost parts of the earth that still need to hear God’s Good News of salvation. There are still people in this world who need to be offered a drink of Living Water.
As we look ahead into the future, we have three choices to how we are going to react to our changing world:
A. Conform to the World
We can simply give up and give in and become like the world. We can cave in to the social pressure around us and accept whatever happens. We can tear down all the boundaries and run free.
B. Condemn the World
We can get into our huddles and condemn the world and hate all those around us. We can be like the Jews of Jesus’ day and walk a wide path around Samaria.
C. Convert the world
Or we can be like our Savior and share with the thirsty His living water. Jesus did not go into Samaria because He loved their sin. He went there because He loved their souls.
We all have a Jerusalem, a Judea, a Samaria, and a world to reach for Christ. We all have friends and family who do not know the Lord. We all are involved in a culture that needs to know Christ. We all have groups of people that we don’t naturally like and would rather walk around them than go to them. We all have a world to reach.
May I encourage you to pray for those whom the Lord would have you to reach? Pray for their salvation and pray for your boldness. Pray that God will give you the opportunity to share with them His living water.