The woman at the well

A recap of the youth group bible teaching from Sunday July 27th 2008.

John 4:1-42. Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well.

Overview: To our 21st century ears there is nothing remotely controversial about the title of this passage. Jesus meets a Samaritan, it’s a woman, they’re at a well… so what? Well Rob pointed out to us that there are some very unusual things about this story…

Firstly, it’s a big deal that Jesus (the Jewish Messiah) has taken a detour into Samaria because everybody knows (at least back then) that Jews and Samaritans don’t get on so well, in fact they’re pretty much enemies. Their relationship is pretty similar to how the Jews in Israel relate to the Palestinians on the West Bank or Gaza in modern day Israel… not great. But Jesus is in Samaria.

Secondly, men don’t usually associate themselves with women. We take the modern day women’s rights and equal opportunity pretty much for granted, but back in 1st century Israel it was a bit of a taboo for men to associate with strange women… And to make matters worse, we get the hint that this woman is a bit of an outcast in her society because she goes to the well in the middle of the day when it’s filthy hot and no one else is there. Is she trying to avoid someone? Does she have some social disgrace that shames her from mixing with the other women?

Even just glancing at the story we can see that there are some big cultural and social boundaries here. And as the story unfolds we find that it’s all these unusual features and cultural boundaries that make this story a good choice for John to record for us.

Twice in the story the woman points out the social boundaries that should divide them:

  • v9 “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
  • v20 “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

By all rights Jesus should not even be talking with this woman, and yet he sees fit to not only talk to her but offer her the water of life – a saving relationship with God that only he can give. Jesus eliminates all the boundaries that should divide them and reveals that “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (v23).

Jesus breaks down all cultural and social boundaries in order to establish a relationship with not only Jews but all people.

Application: If Jesus brings real life without discrimination, what is the application for us?

  1. Maybe we should also tell our friends about the life giving relationship with Jesus without discrimination because Jesus overcomes all social and cultural boundaries to form relationships with anyone and everyone.
    Do you believe that the gospel of Jesus is open to everyone?
  2. What about the power of the Jesus to break down barriers? There might be people that find it hard to get along with because their from a different background, religion, or social scene…? Maybe they’re skaters and you’re a footy head…? Maybe they like techno music and you prefer rock…? Maybe they’re old and you’re young…? Maybe they’re poor and you’re rich…? The gospel of Jesus breaks down these divisions between us so that we are all on common ground.
    Can you find a way to use the gospel of Jesus to break down any social or cultural barriers between you and others?

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