The Jewish High Priest, John Hyrcanus, torched the Samaritan temple at Mount Gerizim in 128 BC.
“Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
We don’t know if the statement by the Samaritan woman was accusatory. But when a Samaritan asks a Jew about the difference in the two locations of worship, this historical moment from roughly 160 years prior would likely still have been in mind.
The religious, social, and political tensions ran high between these two groups. The Samaritan woman acknowledges there is something different about this Jewish teacher with whom she is conversing. She calls him a prophet. Yet he is still a spokesperson for God from the the Jewish people. For centuries, the Jewish people had made it clear that the Samaritans, people of Jewish and other mixed ancestry, were not welcomed. The predominant understanding of the Jewish faith at the time was that these Samaritans were unfaithful, suspect-spiritually, and against God’s Word.
Yet there stood Jesus. His very presence in this Samaritan village was less than ordinary. His engagement in conversation with a Samaritan woman even more unusual. And after the painful truth of her life situation, a string of unsuccessful marriages, had come out in the open… Jesus still kept talking with her. Not to condemn her or to fixate on surface level symptomatic manifestations of her spiritual brokenness. He kept being present to her, her situation, and the core of her deepest spiritual needs.
Jesus offered her a welcoming presence and asked her a few good questions. He combined of his Presence of hospitality, and his intentional questions. This combination created a safe space for the Samaritan woman to open up, explore, and experience transformation in the depths of her inner life.
A Samaritan woman and a Jewish teacher. Few combinations would seem more unlikely for the development of a spiritual friendship. It was such an unusual story, the true honest account of her life’s transformation through the friendship with this unlikely companion, that when she shared this story, her whole community was transformed.