“Jesus...left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar. . . Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
“A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans)” John 4:7-9 (ESV)
In Jesus' time, the shortest distance between Judea and Galilee cut through Samaria. But a centuries-old animosity separated Samaritans and Jews. It stemmed from the racial and religious hybrid that occurred when the Assyrians carried Jews from Samaria into captivity and imported non-Jewish foreigners to inhabit the land.
To avoid Samaria completely, most Jews disregarded efficiency and traveled east across the Jordan River through Perea, then north (Walvoord & Zuck, 2002). As another route existed from Judea to Galilee, why does John's account say Jesus “...had to pass through Samaria” (verse 4)? As Jesus does only the will of the Father (John 5:30), what can be assumed about this trip through Samaria?
For Jesus, the journey from Jerusalem through Samaria traversed 35 miles of rocky, hilly terrain. Making the trip wearied him. As he sat down near the well, a Samaritan woman approached. In Jesus' day, respectable women stayed at home, unless poverty forced them to work outside. A woman going about in public aroused suspicion that she might be a prostitute. Many rabbis taught men not to converse with a woman in public. Speaking to any woman other than one's wife or children constituted a major transgression (Walvoord & Zuck, 2002).
Being a Jewish male afforded Jesus the status and privilege that she, as a Samaritan woman, did not enjoy. In addition, her multiple marriages and current live-in boyfriend rendered her unclean, according to ceremonial Jewish law (John 4:16-18). The gap between Jesus and this woman loomed large.
At the risk of becoming ceremonially unclean, Jesus not only spoke to her, he asked her to give him a drink. She had a container to draw with and, perhaps, a rope and something to drink from. He identified her resources and invited her to engage with him, not as a Jew, not as a man, but as another human being. He was willing to drink from her vessel what water she would offer.
Jesus crossed racial, ethnic, religious, and social barriers to speak to this Samaritan woman. He initiated the encounter by drawing attention to the fact that she had something of value and he had a need. Jesus' humble, vulnerable stance toward her connected them in a manner that paved the way for a deeper discussion about true worship. Then he revealed to her—perhaps the first person he told—his identity as Messiah (John 4:10-26). Later, people in the town of Sychar stated, “We have heard for ourselves, and we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42, ESV).
May Jesus overwhelm our hearts with his love for those others we meet along the way.
QUESTIONS FOR NURSES TO CONSIDER
Despite knowing unsavory details of this woman's life, Jesus showed her respect. He saw her worth and value. He identified her strengths and resources and invited her to utilize these to engage with him.
- What effect did Jesus have on this woman? How did his visit impact the people of Sychar?
- What persons in your care setting do others avoid or withhold respect from?
- If nurses approached patients with a focus on their skills and intrinsic value rather than deficits or failures, how might interactions change? What would that look like in your practice?
- What does Jesus' approach to the woman at the well reveal about the heart of God toward marginalized people? How can we apply this to our nursing practice?
Walvoord J. F., Zuck R. B. (Eds.). (2002). The Bible knowledge commentary: New Testament
. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.