One of my favorite stories about Jesus happens to be the story which the name of our church is founded. In John 4, Jesus is on his way back to Galilee from Judea to handle some concerns that the religious elite had about baptism. His only way back to Galilee in the time he had was to go through Samaria. So, our ultimate sacrilegious revolutionary stepped up and took on the religious expectations head-on.
- The Jews regarded the Samaritans as inferior and defiled people. Any sort of contact with them would be a defilement. This was more than “we just don’t like them.” After the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC, the Assyrians used Samaria as a catch-all for their conquered people, combining worship of Jehovah and Baal, it was a mess. In 539 BC the scattered Jews made their way back, there were problems. The Samaritans opposed the rebuilding of the walls in Jerusalem. Later they fused Greek culture with their religion and dedicated their temple to Zeus. During Jesus’ time, there was rivalry and hatred. Jesus refuses to take the proper religious move of the day, he enters Samaria.
- In John 4:4, the story says “Now Jesus had to go through Samaria.” The most direct route was through Samaria, but the language and context seems to indicate that Jesus’ “had to” was more about a point to be made than a GPS to follow. The sacrilegious move was that he went right where he “wasn’t supposed to go.”
If we are going to follow Jesus into places where we “aren’t supposed to go” what will that look like? Does it mean we go off to some other country? Does it mean we go to the “other side of town”? What do you think it means?
Let me offer this. In our culture, we’ve heard the phrase, “Religion is a private matter.” We also see that religion is relegated to religious places. Maybe Jesus would sacrilegiously live in our neighborhoods, work in our workplaces and hang out where we play? Maybe our off-limits places are our everyday places because those are the places where Jesus went. We, the Church, are the “body of Christ,” which means we are not just people who know about Jesus, but we are people who embody the very presence of Jesus where we live work and play. It all starts with our own “had to”…a compelling need to go!
In the next post, we’ll look at what Jesus did while in Samaria…he actually stopped and was quite sacrilegious when he did.