Short Meditations in John 4: 9. Racial Divisions
Jn 4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “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)
Have you ever noticed how often our thinking involves us separating ourselves off from someone before us. We come across a great businessman or civic leader, full of knowledge and wisdom and we put them on a pedestal in our mind and exalt them and demean ourselves and there is this great gulf before us. Or the person before us, by their speech or demeanour, clearly reveals they are not of the same social standing as us, as we look down on them, and again there is a gulf between us. Living with sin in this Fallen World means that in the absence of love, we naturally see the divisions between us.
The divisions may be class or they may be education or they may be culture; so many things that separate us. Already we have considered briefly the history of the Samaritans and the Jews. As we said, the Jews looked down on the Samaritans as being of mixed ancestry and the Samaritans would have been aware of this distinction and the feelings of pride among the Jews that pushed the Samaritans away.
Now what is interesting is that this Samaritan woman is able to ‘read’ Jesus. Presumably something about his dress or his speech reveals his background. This is interesting! It says the Son of God has become so integrated into the human race, and especially into the Jewish race, that others can ‘read’ him and know his background, it is that clear.
Having ‘read’ Jesus, this Samaritan woman immediately highlights the differences between the two of them. It maybe that her life, as we shall soon learn, has made her defensive and so she is quick to push away contact. She is a woman and he is a man. Is it right for them to be making contact? She is a Samaritan and he is a Jew. Surely this racial and cultural divide says you Jews look down on us Samaritans, so what are you doing making contact with me? I have water and you want water, but is that sufficient to bridge our divide? Well, needs often push people together.
The challenge must come to us as we read this verse, am I like her and do I immediately – in my defensiveness – see the differences between us and push you away unless I see that you are just like me? How much do we let the work of sin separate us from others, from big people and little people, from religious people and non-religious people, from coloured people and non-coloured people, from clever people and not clever people? All of these things have the potential of pushing us apart, but if I am a child of God I should learn to be comfortable in who I am and learn to enjoy you and your differences.