22: Jews and Samaritans
The sound of bubbling water came from deep in the well. Jesus could hear it clearly. There was cool, fresh water deep in the old well, and Jesus was thirsty.
It was very warm, for it was the middle of the day. Jesus could see the outlines of two mountains—Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim—against the clear blue sky. One was bare and rocky; the other had some green growth on it. The two crowns looked down on a fruitful valley. In the distance, beyond fruit trees and vineyards, Jesus could see the bright sun beating down on the white houses of the little town of Sychar.
This was the place where Abraham had lived, between the terebinths of Mamre. Jacob had set up his tents here upon returning to Canaan after his years with Laban. Jacob had also dug the well by which Jesus now sat.
Here, by these mountains, Joshua had called the people of Israel together when he was told to say goodbye to them. Now the One on whom all those Old Testament believers had fixed their hopes had come. He sat alone, tired and dusty from the long journey He had made.
The disciples had gone to the city to buy food. They had followed their Master when He left Judea. They were going to Galilee, but the Savior had chosen a route that took them through the land of the Samaritans. This was something He had to do, He had told them. The disciples didn't understand, but they went along.
There was an age-old hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans living in Palestine. Each looked down on the other from the day they met.
The day had come when the Jews, who had just returned from exile in Babylon started rebuilding their temple. The Samaritans came and offered their help in the rebuilding project. The Jews declined the offer, for they regarded the Samaritans as a heathen people. The Samaritans said that they wanted to serve God, but they went about it in their own way.
That was the beginning. The Samaritans had made rebuilding the temple almost impossible. They had harrassed the Jews night and day, and had even tried to get the Persian authorities to intervene.
The Jews never forgot what the Samaritans had done. Later they destroyed the temple that the Samaritans had built on Mount Gerizim.
The old hatred and contempt still flared up whenever Jews and Samaritans came into contact. Neither side passed up an opportunity to lash out against the other. They cursed and scorned each other and would not receive each other in their homes. There could be no friendship between Jews and Samaritans.
Jesus' disciples were not very happy, then, when their Master told them that they would be passing through Samaritan territory. What was Jesus up to?