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Getting Past our Differences

by Anna Hartge

John 4: 1-45

Jesus and a Samaritan Woman
This story found in the book of John, Chapter 4 stands as a model of Christian behavior for those of us who follow the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus engages a Samaritan woman as she goes about her routine of drawing water from Jacob’s well in a Samaritan city of Sychar. While the encounter seems ordinary enough on the surface we are quickly drawn into a complex spiritual/social/personal drama that serves as a turning point in the early ministry of Jesus. Jews and Samaritans resented each other from generations past due to intermarriages that resulted in the mixed race of Samaritans. Jews thought of themselves as pure and holy when compared to this clan of Assyrian/Jewish genealogy. Women were far from the equal rights we seek today. This Samaritan woman brings a personal profile of 5 former husbands and a current common law arrangement. As his disciples thought —but did not say— we must ponder what Jesus was really up to here?

The woman, shocked that he is speaking to her, reminds Jesus that her kind of folks and his kind do not interact with each other. Jesus then opens the door to the awesome gift of living water — eternal life that he brings to her and to all mankind. However in doing so he reads into her life circumstances in a way no man could. Telling her about her lifestyle and revealing for the first time to anyone, that in fact he is the Messiah so anxiously anticipated. As he is now still in the initial stages of his remarkable journey to Calvary, Jesus seizes the opportunity to show us how to capture a soul for the kingdom. He looks past the socio-political rift and explains to her that his gift of eternal life is available to her through belief in him. He alerts her to the soon coming time when praise and adoration of other men will be supplanted by the true worship of the Father in spirit and in truth. Jesus cares not that she is a woman or of another race as he transforms this unlikely subject into one of his first and most ardent devotees. She even brings Jesus to her fellow neighbors and he graces them with two days of his presence! What a powerful script unfolds in this story from a chance encounter at a well in a city usually avoided by Jewish travelers.

For us this seems to be just a meeting of Jesus our Savior and a Samaritan woman of no distinction. What we have however are priceless directions from the Master about breaking barriers. Those that prevent us from reaching across our differences. We must cast aside the comforting yet prejudice thinking that fuels our professional, social, and even our tightly held worship practices— yes the ones we hold so dearly. He charges us to take the gospel message to whomever the Lord places anywhere in our path! Jesus taught the same principles repeatedly. Colossians 3: 11 tells us that in our new life through Christ, divisive labels (like Jew, Gentile, Barbaric or Slave) no longer hold meaning or power in our lives.

Let’s mark this Lenten season as the time we commit to pay attention to the model he set for us as we GET PAST OUR DIFFERENCES!

Arnold A. Jackson

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1 comment

Rev. Starlette McNeill* April 12, 2011 - 2:34 pm

Thank you for this much- needed reminder of the new life that we, as believers, have in Jesus Christ which can help us to get past our differences.

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Grace and Race Ministries