In Jesus’ day, the tension between two groups of people called the Samaritans and Jews was intense. The Samaritans claimed to believe in the first five books of the Old Testament, though they had cut themselves off from the riches of the rest of the Old Testament. They also claimed to be children of Abraham though they continued as a blended religion filled with pagan and occult beliefs and practices. They were a cult.
The Jews were so disgusted by the Samaritans that they rarely traveled through their land, and it was not uncommon for Jews to be detained and harassed for merely traveling through Samaria.
Wanting to avoid the controversy swirling in Judea about the baptisms His disciples were performing, Jesus relocated His ministry to Galilee and chose to travel through Samaria rather than avoid it, according to John 4. In Samaria, He and His disciples came to one of the most populated towns, Sychar. Weary from His long travels, Jesus sat at Jacob’s well around noon and sent all of His disciples to town to buy food.
A Samaritan woman came to the well alone to draw water and did not say a word to Jesus, likely because she knew that the Jews considered Samaritans as the lowest of the low. She likely came alone in the heat of midday because she had been outcast and scorned by the other women who had gathered earlier in the day to visit and draw water together. Despite these social barriers, Jesus spoke to her and with great humility asked her, “Will you give Me a drink?”
The woman was stunned. Men were not to speak to women in such a casual and personal setting, especially single men. In fact, many rabbis would not even speak to their sister, daughter, or wife in public. Jews were not to speak to Samaritans. Rabbis were not to speak to the heathens. But, Jesus spoke to her. Not just spoke to her, but spoke to her kindly and asked her for a favor.
It was customary for travelers in that day to carry with them a bag for holding water, and Jesus’ men apparently took theirs into town, leaving Him without something to drink out of. So, Jesus requested a drink from her bag. This act of drinking from her vessel would have been seen as sinful and dirty by the Jews, causing Him to be ritually unclean. Why would Jesus do this? Because Jesus is a God who seeks out sinners, pursues them for relationship, and changes them. In God’s eyes, we are all Samaritans.
How did Jesus begin pursuing you for a relationship?