Jesus and His disciples were en route from Judea in the south to Galilee in the north. The shortest road went through Samaria. However, many Jews chose to avoid Samaria because they hated the people (years of intermarriage with tribes outside of their faith had made them spiritually despised by ‘true Jews’). So, in order not to defile themselves, religious people took the long route by crossing the Jordan and travelling north on its eastern side. Not so, Jesus. By saying “He had to go through Samaria”, John was not talking about the shortest geographical route, but the gospel purpose in Jesus’ life. Unknown to the disciples, Jesus had an appointment in Samaria with a woman who was neither religiously nor morally respectable: He would also give essential training to His disciples.
The location was a historical pilgrimage site: Jacob’s well. It was an area of land which Jacob purchased (Genesis 33:19), dug a well there, and bequeathed to Joseph, which became his burial site. An early explorer in the 17th century found the well to be very deep (105 feet) and containing much water (John 4:11). It lay at the foot of Mount Gerizim where Joshua and the tribes of Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin were to recite the blessings which God had promised Moses for all who would obey God’s law (Deuteronomy 11:29). So the scene was set for Jesus to talk about worship, obedience, blessings and the water of life, which He would give to those who believed in Him.
The disciples had no idea what was about to happen nor the lessons which they would learn. But Jesus knew. He was about to prepare them for gospel ministry to people who had no hope. Similarly in our lives, we do not know how God will unpack each day for us. We can be sure that our lives are not a series of random events but that the Lord is weaving His purpose through every circumstance. He does this daily in order to reveal Himself, help us to understand ourselves; showing us how to change our hearts and our thinking - so that we can take the next step, and be ready to be useful in His service. The fact that we do not know in advance should make the Christian life an exciting adventure!
© Dr Paul Adams