The Harvest is Ripe, Where You Least Expect It

Read John 4:1-42

Spring had turned into summer.  The rains had ceased and the heat was increasing as the new life that had sprung forth was starting to produce fruit, the fields were getting white for harvest.  Yeshua took His disciples on from the baptismal doorway of the Kingdom of Heaven, to the path of learning what it is to live as citizens in this Kingdom.  Each place that Yeshua took them, every action that He did and every word He said, was part of the rabbinical teaching process – it was the scope and sequence of His curriculum.

 As Yeshua headed north from Judea towards Galilee, He diverted from the usual Jewish route along the Jordan River, which carefully skirted around Samaria, and instead at Alexandrium turned to take the rough north-western track up out of the Jordan valley towards Sychar.  It would have been a long and tiresome days’ walk in the summer heat, 32kms over somewhat difficult country to reach Jacob’s Well. (1)  The disciples may have wondered if Yeshua really knew what He was doing or where He was going.  This was not the traditional route, nor was it the easiest.  But it was the necessary path to their next lesson.   

“He had to pass through Samaria.” John 4:4

The spiritual significance of this land…

They emerged from the rough climb onto the rich plain of Samaria. All around, the fields ‘were already white unto the harvest.’  There is some contention between scholars as to whether time in the Fourth Gospel is reckoned according to the Jewish mode, making their arrival around midday, or according to the Roman civil day, making their arrival around 6pm.  Since this gospel was likely written by a priest or Levite from Jerusalem, they would have used Jewish timing and shunned that of the Romans, so it is most likely that the group arrived around midday. (1)  

As Yeshua and His disciples came up to Jacob’s Well, they found themselves standing at the entrance of a narrow valley. This whole region had spiritual significance for both Jews and Samaritans, but the Jews had been avoiding it for centuries because of the Samaritan presence here.  

It was to this valley, wherein had been the ancient city of Shechem, that the Israelites had carried Joseph’s bones when God brought them up out of Egypt:

The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph. Joshua 24:32 NKJV

Shechem was also one of the cities that had been given to the Levites (priests) and designated as a city of refuge where a person who had killed someone accidently was provided with a safe haven in Israel:

And the families of the children of Kohath, the Levites, the rest of the children of Kohath, even they had the cities of their lot from the tribe of Ephraim. For they gave them Shechem with its common-land in the mountains of Ephraim (a city of refuge for the slayer) … Joshua 21:20-21

It was in this place that Joshua, just before he died, had gathered all the tribes of Israel to present themselves before God and covenant with Him:

And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!”
So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.
And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.”
Joshua 24:24-27 NKJV

To the left was Mount Gerizim and to the right rose Mount Ebal, stretching even higher than Mount Gerizim.  Both of these mountains figure prominently in the Torah (first five books of the Bible and the basis of both the Jewish and Samaritan religions), as do the city of Shechem, Joseph’s tomb and Jacob’s well, which were all located in this valley where they now stood.

It was on Mount Ebal, according to the Jewish Torah, that Moses had commanded the children of Israel to build an alter to the Lord and offer burnt offerings when they crossed over the Jordan. And it was on this mountain that the tribes were to stand to curse any disobedience to the Law:

Now Moses, with the elders of Israel, commanded the people, saying: “Keep all the commandments which I command you today. And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime. You shall write on them all the words of this law, when you have crossed over, that you may enter the land which the Lord your God is giving you, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey,’ just as the Lord God of your fathers promised you. Therefore it shall be, when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones, which I command you today, and you shall whitewash them with lime. And there you shall build an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones; you shall not use an iron tool on them. You shall build with whole stones the altar of the Lord your God, and offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God. You shall offer peace offerings, and shall eat there, and rejoice before the Lord your God.  And you shall write very plainly on the stones all the words of this law.”
“…and these shall stand on Mount Ebal to curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.” Deuteronomy 27:1-8, 13 NKJV

The Samaritan Torah (first five books of the Bible written in the Samaritan alphabet) holds that the instruction actually mandated the construction of the altar on Mount Gerizim, not Mount Ebal. Samaritan tradition held that the tabernacle was pitched on Mount Gerizim after the Israelites crossed over into the promised land. Mount Gerizim was also, according to the traditions of the Samaritans, where Abraham took Isaac for sacrifice and God had provided the substitute. This mountain spoke of God’s provision for redemption, that God Himself would provide the sacrifice that was needed. 

It was also on this mountain that Moses had commanded the children of Israel to stand to bless the people when they crossed over the Jordan:

And Moses commanded the people on the same day, saying, “These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, when you have crossed over the Jordan: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin” Deuteronomy 27:11-12

On the basis of all this, the Samaritans believed that Mount Gerizim was the sacred place that Yahweh had chosen for the people to worship Him.  Archaeological evidence shows that the Samaritans had built a temple on Mount Gerizim around 450 B.C., during the Persian period. They had expanded their temple complex during the Hellenistic period, around 200 B.C., and continued having it as the centre of their worship of Yehweh until John Hyrcanus of the Hasmonaean dynasty (the Maccabees) destroyed it in around 128/9 BC . (11)

Huge staircase that led up to the Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim
Staircase leading up to the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim

Mount Gerizim remained a major point of divergence between the Samaritans, who believed it to be the only place chosen by God for His worship, and the Jews, who believed Jerusalem was the only place chosen by God for His worship. According to rabbinic literature, in order to convert to Judaism, a Samaritan must first and foremost renounce any belief in the sanctity of Mount Gerizim.  (2) (12)

Samaritans marking Passover on Mount Gerizim

On Mount Ebal, Joshua had gathered the Israelites after the capture of Ai.  There they had offered burnt offerings to the Lord.  

Now Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses: “an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings.  And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. Joshua 8:30-32 NKJV

Then, with half of the congregation connected to Mount Gerizum, and the other half connected to Mount Ebal, Joshua had read the whole Torah to the people. (3)

All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had given command at first to bless the people of Israel. Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them. Joshua 8:33-35 NASB

This was the heritage that the Samaritans claimed as their own. This was the basis of their faith and traditions. This is where they believed that God had commanded people come to worship Him. Yeshua had brought His disciples right up into the very heart of Samaritan religious society. Despite the shared heritage both Jews and Samaritans had in this place, it had come to represent the basis for all the vehement religious conflict between the two.

A woman of Samaria came…

Up ahead lay Sychar, resting at the foot of Mount Ebal.  It was to this town that the disciples went to buy their food while Yeshua rested wearily on the low parapet which enclosed the well.   The author of the fourth gospel had likely stayed with Yeshua, and so was able to give us a first-hand account of the conversation that was about to take place.  He may well have been older than the others, who had been with Yochanan the Immerser before the priests and Levites arrived from Jerusalem, and so been in greater need of rest than those young men.  

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.  John 4:7a NKJV

This woman came alone.  It was not the time of day when the women from the surrounding areas all gathered at the well to draw their water and catch up on the latest gossip.  Unlike her sisters this woman chose, or perhaps was forced, to come at a lonely time in the middle of the day.  Her company was not welcomed, her history and current lifestyle left her as an outcast, looked down upon and despised. In this she was like Joseph, whose bones were buried in this area and considered to be a witness to all these things.

So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colours that was on him. Then they took him and cast him into a pit. … …So Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.” And his brothers listened. Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt. … …

… But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.”
But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.  
… …So she kept his garment with her until his master came home. Then she spoke to him with words like these, saying, “The Hebrew servant whom you brought to us came in to me to mock me; so it happened, as I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me and fled outside.”
So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, “Your servant did to me after this manner,” that his anger was aroused.  Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison.
Genesis 37:23-28 & 39:10-20

“Give me a drink”

Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”    John 4:7b NKJV

From His exhaustion and thirst came Messiah’s ministry to this woman, and her whole city.  Yeshua was comfortable expressing weakness and need, He was not compelled to wear a mask.  Nor did He feel compelled to keep all the Mitzvot d’rabbanan (laws that were enacted by the rabbis), which included the minhag (long standing customs of the community), even though the Pharisees considered these to be as binding as the Torah laws that God had spoken to Moses and recorded in the scriptures.   

Yeshua’s sole concern was doing the will of the Father (John 5:19), and He would not let any man-made rules, conventions or expectations stop Him from doing this fully.  Yeshua obeyed the rules of His community whenever they did not restrict obedience to His Father, but the Father’s will at any moment always took precedence – another basic value of this apostolic reformation of Judaism.   In His simple request Yeshua broke three Jewish customs: first, he spoke to a woman in public; second, he spoke with a Samaritan; and third, he asked her to get him a drink of water.   To receive a drink from her would have made Him ceremonially unclean from using her cup or jar.   Ceremonial cleanliness was not as important to Yeshua as ministering to others in purity of heart. (4)

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?”
For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. John 4:9

For more on the Samaritans, and the relationship between them and the Jews, go to: http://blog.renewal.asn.au/2020/03/02/israel-replaced-with-samaritans-the-kingdom-of-god-prophesied-931-627-bc/

Both Torah believing groups, Jews and Samaritans, considered the other to be imposters. The difference between these two groups was not whether the Torah of Moses must be obeyed, but HOW it should be obeyed. To both groups, that difference meant everything. Yet, as we are beginning to see, these differences were not so important to Yeshua. (10)

Yeshua saw that this woman had an open, hungry heart. His willingness to cross the divide between them had captured her attention. So He ventured straight in to discussing spiritual things with her, even as He had done with the Jewish religious leader, Nicodemus.

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” John 4:10 NKJV

The Samaritan woman recognised that Yeshua was someone extraordinary, and was talking about things that she did not understand. This was a woman schooled in the Torah, it dominated the landscape in which she lived and dictated every aspect of life for these Samaritans. So she questioned Him further, drawing the comparison with Jacob (Israel), the father of them all.

The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” John 4:11-12 NKJV

Are you greater than our father Jacob?” It was not an accusation, but a searching for the truth. Yeshua’s answer was in the affirmative.

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13-14 NKJV

This woman’s faith was grounded in practical realities. She walked the land that the patriarchs had walked. She drew water from the well that Jacob had dug, and that had provided for her people since ancient times. She lived in the shadows of the mountains on which Joshua had constructed an alter and the whole Torah had been read out to Israel as the covenanted with God to obey it. So, in her response, this Samaritan woman tried to connect Yeshua’s words with the practicalities of life.

The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” John 4:15 NKJV

Messiah revealed

With invitation and prophetic utterance Yeshua gently exposed this woman’s life to truth and guided her to a revelation of the Father’s heart.

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” John 4:16 NKJV

It was a scary invitation, one that we so often resist. An invitation to go to the source of her greatest pain and shame. Would this woman have the courage to open up and let Yeshua touch such vulnerable places in her heart? Or would she, like so many do, try to keep her pain hidden from He who sees it all?

The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” John 4:17a NKJV

She could have feigned obedience at this point, said “ok”, run off and just never returned. But this woman was hungry for the truth. Even though she was uncomfortable with where this conversation was going, she stayed and kept engaged with Yeshua. There was something in this man that let her know that it was safe to stay, and safe to get personal.

Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” John 4:17b-18 NKJV

Without fear, intrigue or condemnation Yeshua laid bare this woman’s life. The pain and shame she had carried was brought out into the open without rebuke or patronizing. Yeshua knew her, He had known her all along, and still He had chosen to talk with her. We do not know if her five husbands had each died, or if she had suffered rejection and divorce, if she had been unable to give any man a child, if she had been beaten or abused. Was she considered by her people to be immoral for the choices she had made, or cursed for the unfair things that seemed to keep happening to her? Yeshua would often confront sin and, even in the most loving and redemptive encounters, command “go, and sin no more”, yet He never said such to this woman. Was her situation more that of unjust suffering, like Joseph’s had been, than of deliberate sin? We don’t know. What we do know is that her life had been full of pain and that she did not run away from Yeshua in that pain, but kept pressing in and seeking to engage more deeply with Him so she could learn of God.

Having seen Yeshua‘s intimate knowledge of her miserable situation and felt His compassionate empathy, this woman felt secure enough to broach the subject of greatest controversy between the Jews and Samaritans. (10) This was a subject that would arouse men’s anger and hatred. Many seemed convinced that they need to prove their loyalty to God and His truth by vehemently attacking anyone who expressed an alternate view. To ask the following question of a Jew is something no Samaritan was likely to do, unless they were looking for trouble. But Yeshua was so much more than just a Jew, He had proven that already in this conversation, and this woman was so hungry to learn the truth of God that she was willing to venture onto unspeakable territory.

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” John 4:19-20 NKJV

Yeshua’s response was not the angry tirade that would normally be expected to such a statement. His answer was kind and gentle and unexpected. His answer neither confirmed nor rebuked either theological position, instead it shifted the focus totally.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21-24 NKJV

Yeshua challenged the whole focus of the Jewish-Samaritan divide – the Mount Gerizim Vs Mount Zion theological controversy. He dismissed it as irrelevant.

What would you do if Jesus came along and dismissed your most cherished and strongly argued doctrine as irrelevant? What if He didn’t even bother to argue with it, just stated, “that’s not what it’s all about“. The whole basis on which you and your church and your community decided who was a true believer and who was a heretic; who God would accept and who He would reject. That is what He did to this woman, and in so doing, to His own community as well.

In Hebrew, which would have been the language of this conversation, this would have been worded “neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem … but… in spirit and truth“. Both places, both doctrines, both sets of firmly held beliefs and practices, were contrasted with being in God’s desire.

With His statement, Yeshua also exposed her need to learn more “you worship what you do not know“, and the unlikely (for a Samaritan) way to salvation “for salvation is of the Jews“. Yet, in this pointing to the Jews He is not excluding the Samaritan woman, but inviting her, as He refers her back to the Torah. “The Jews” were named after the tribe of Judah, from which had come king David to whom Yeshua’s heritage could be traced, and we find this verse in both the Judean and Samaritan versions of the Torah:

“Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s children shall bow down before you. … …  

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.”
Genesis 49: 8& 10

Domination of enemies and guarantee of security were the essential elements of the ancient concept of salvation. Judah would lead and rule until someone rises up from within these people (the Lion of Judah), whom even the nations will joyfully serve. (10).

Yeshua’s talk of salvation, and focus on true worship of the Father, stirred within this Samaritan woman the longings and expectations she had of a coming messiah from what Moses had written in Deuteronomy 18:18 “ I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”

The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”     John 4:25 NKJV

Her messianic expectations were not like the Jewish Zealots, of a warrior who would destroy the Romans and place all the world under Jewish rule, but of the true prophet-teacher who would come to tell them all things.  Someone who would explain the things of God plainly to them and remove the charge of ignorance that the Jews laid against them.   Someone who would reveal to them the Father’s will and ways.

Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” John 4:26 NKJV

How quickly this most unexpected conversation had turned, and indeed this woman’s whole life had turned.  A hope grew within her soul the likes of which she had never known before.  Could she, who was despised by all her kin, actually have met the Messiah and been accepted by Him?  Wonder and awe, excitement and expectation stirred within her as she pondered His words until she felt compelled to go and tell everyone and bring them to meet this man.

The Question
no one wanted to ask…

And at this point His disciples came, and they marvelled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”   John 4:27 NKJV     

None of the disciples asked Yeshua what He was doing or why.  Maybe they didn’t want to know, they weren’t ready for this lesson yet.   Asking questions was a very Jewish thing to do, especially between a rabbi and his talmidim. It was an essential part of the learning process, but no one dared ask, no one wanted to learn. 

This aspect of kingdom living was just too radical, too counter-cultural, too totally opposed to everything they had been taught their whole lives about what ‘good Jewish men’ did and refrained from doing.  A strict rabbi would not be seen talking even to his own wife on the street or in public.  A saying of Rabbi Jose ben Yochanan is recorded in the sayings of the Fathers (1.5):

Talk not much with womankind. They said this of a man’s own wife. How much more of his fellow’s wife. Hence the Sages have said: He that talks much with womankind brings evil upon himself, and neglects the study of the Law, and at last will inherit Gehenna (hell).” “It is forbidden to speak to woman in the street, even one’s own wife” (Yoma 240 a) (5).  

One did not violate the customs of their people – it looks bad, it will earn the distain of religious and civic leaders alike, the Pharisees say it’s unlawful and will lead you to hell, surely God Himself disapproves.  How could this man who embodied the Kingdom of Heaven possibly do such a thing?  

A diversionary tactic, “Rabbi eat” they urged Him.   Maybe such unorthodox behaviour was due to hunger, He was just weak and famished and did not really know what He was doing.  We can fix that problem, get some food into Him, and pretend we didn’t see Him talking with a Samaritan woman.  

Lift up your eyes and look at the fields…

As with the Samaritan woman, now with His disciples, Yeshua started with where they were at, their stated concern, and answered it in a way to elicit, at least among themselves, a questioning heart:

But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”         John 4:32-33 NKJV

A questioning heart is open to learn, so now Yeshua answered the questions they had been refusing to ask and prepared them for what was about to transpire – all the men of the city coming to Him to see if indeed He was the Christ:

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.  Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!  And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.  For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’   I sent you to reap that for which you have not laboured; others have laboured, and you have entered into their labours.”    John 4:34-38 NKJV

Disciples make disciples.  Talmidim produce more talmidim. A basic principle in first century Judaism, here affirmed by Yeshua: “I sent (apostéllō) you to reap”.  

This was the first time Yeshua had declared that He had apostéllō (an official, authoritative commissioning to accomplish a task) His talmidim.  They were apostéllō to the task of reaping the harvest.   What harvest had He sent them to reap?   The people of the city of Sychar, where they had just been to buy food. 

The disciples had thought only of their need to buy food in this city, but Yeshua was saying he had apostéllō them there to reap the harvest, to bring them into the Kingdom.   How could this be – wasn’t the Kingdom of Heaven a Jewish kingdom, and these were Samaritans?  It may have been that “a commandment which the Samaritans follow they observe much more scrupulously than do the Jews” (Ber. vii. 1) but they rejected all the Jewish books except the Pentateuch, and totally failed to acknowledge or observe so many of the first century Jewish community’s commands and customs. (6)  Why would Yeshua take His talmidim to these backward people and commission them to reap a harvest for the Kingdom from these whom they thought were so far from being ready for it?

They were on their way back to Galilee where the Jews were renowned for being deeply traditional and committed in their religious observance, even more so than those in Jerusalem.   Why this detour to these outcasts whose ancestors tried to hinder the building of the walls of Jerusalem and who even now refused to acknowledge the need to worship in the temple there?  Such surely could not be wanted in, nor ready for, the Kingdom of Heaven.  Because of their own prejudices Yeshua’s disciples had judged the Samaritans as not being ready to receive eternal life, and so had failed to recognise Yeshua’s first commissioning (apostéllō) of them – to reap a harvest among these people. 

They were about to find out how wrong they had been:

The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  
Then they went out of the city and came to Him…
And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”   So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.         John 4:28-30 & 39-40 NKJV

Yeshua invested in these Samaritans.  Despite all the history of hundreds of years of animosity between Jews and Samaritans, it was the will of the Father to reap the harvest and invite them into His Kingdom.   Jews would only travel through Samaria if the urgency of their mission required taking the shortest route from Jerusalem to Galilee, otherwise they would travel the extra miles to skirt around this territory.  Whenever possible Jews avoided having any dealings with Samaritans at all (John 4:9).  Yeshua had taken a detour to go through Samaritan territory, and stopped at the place which represented the source of the conflict between the Jews and Samaritans, chose to rest in the very heart of the Samaritan’s religious life, and there chose to talk with a Samaritan woman about personal and spiritual matters (unheard of!!!), and now chose to stay in this Samaritan city with these Samaritans, responding to their hungry hearts eager to be taught ‘all things’.   Nothing draws and sustains His presence like hungry hearts.

And many more believed because of His own word.  Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”        John 4:39-42 NKJV

Wow, what a depth of revelation those Samaritans had. Those ones whom the disciples had thought were not ready.   They so eagerly received the revelation that Yeshua was indeed the Christ (anointed One) who was the saviour of the whole world, not just the Jews or just the Samaritans, but everyone who believes. The devout Jewish Torah scholar, rabbi and teacher of rabbi’s, Nicodemus, had struggled to grasp even part of this revelation but these despised ‘ignorant’ Samaritans got it straight away.

Everything is about making more disciples.  Every interaction is an opportunity for the Kingdom.  Both those who sow and those who reap receive the reward and many whom we think are unlikely may already have the word sown into them and are white for harvest, just waiting to be reaped.   The ones whom God chooses to reveal Christ to are not necessarily the ones whom man thinks should be chosen or the ones we think would be open to receive such revelation.  How many, like the disciples, fail to recognise their first apostéllō, authoritative commissioning by Christ to a task for the Kingdom, because of prejudice against those they are called to serve?

Fruits of their labours…

According to Eastern Orthodox Church tradition this Samaritan woman at the well was named Photini when baptised, and is celebrated as a saint of renown who continued to  bring so many to Christ, before she was eventually martyred by Nero, that she is described as “equal to the apostles”.  In Greek sermons from the fourth to the fourteenth centuries she is called “apostle” and “evangelist”, with many suggesting that she surpassed even the male apostles in her devotion to Christ and evangelism of the nations. (7) (8) From the details in Stephen’s testimony in Acts 7 some scholars believe that he also was a Samaritan, possibly one who was touched directly by Christ during these two days. (9)

Reference List

1. Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Grand Rapids, Ml: : Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1886.
2. Gibson, Shimon. GERIZIM, MOUNT. Jewish Virtual Library. [Online] [Cited: 17th Nov. 2016.] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0007_0_07198.html.
3. Stevenson, John. Ministry in Samaria. Angle Fire. [Online] [Cited: 17th Nov. 2016.] http://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/jn04-01.html.
4. Chapman, Gary S. Woman at the Well – Bible Story Summary. About Religion. [Online] [Cited: 17th Nov. 2016.] http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestorysummaries/a/Woman-At-The-Well.htm.
5. Barclay, William. Women and Marriage in Jesus’ day The Jewish attitude on both. Resitution of all Things. [Online] 1973. [Cited: 3rd Dec. 2016.] http://www.keithhunt.com/Mariage1.html.
6. A. Cowley, Joseph Jacobs, Henry Minor Huxley. SAMARITANS. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: 13th Nov. 2016.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13059-samaritans.
7. St. Photini, the Samaritan Woman. Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. [Online] [Cited: 20th Nov. 2016.] http://www.antiochian.org/st-photini-samaritan-woman.
8. Topping, Eva Catafygiotu. St Photini, The Samaritan Woman. Orthodox Christian. [Online] Light and Life Publishing Company. [Cited: 20th Nov. 2016.] http://www.orthodoxchristian.info/pages/photini.htm.
9. Moyes, Gordon. Discovering The Young Church – Chapter 4: Stephen the Martyr. Gordon Moyes. [Online] [Cited: 20th Nov. 2016.] http://www.gordonmoyes.com/2009/07/07/discovering-the-young-church-%E2%80%93-chapter-4-stephen-the-martyr/.
10. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg. The Samaritan woman RECONSIDERED. ISBN: 9781713300366. 2019
11. Megan Sauter. The Temple on Mount Gerizim—In the Bible and Archaeology. Biblical Archaeology Society. August 26, 2019 [Online] [Cited: 18th April 2020] https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/the-temple-on-mount-gerizim-in-the-bible-and-archaeology/
12. Jewish Encyclopedia , by Funk & Wagnalls of New York, 1906
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson

In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…

* Jewish custom and tradition stated that they had to avoid going through Samaria. Why did Jesus lead His disciples to violate this custom?
* Jewish religious practice at this time forbade speaking to Samaritans (the Eighteen articles), or having any interactions with them, and drinking from something they used was thought to defile one, so why did Jesus go against all of this?
* Jewish religious practice of this day also forbid a man to talk to a woman in public. What do you think of how Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, and the effects of that conversation?
* How do you think Jesus’ disciples would have felt about what He was doing?
* The purpose of all these Jewish laws and restrictions was to keep the Jews pure and acceptable to God – did following these rules accomplish this?
* What does Jesus’s example teach us about what is needed to be pure and acceptable before God?
* Is there any tribe, or denomination, or group of people, whom your group despise like the Jews despised Samaritans – how do you think Jesus would treat these people?
* Are there any of your strongly held doctrines or beliefs or practices that Jesus might treat as irrelevant to what the Father is seeking?
* Is there anyone whom we should be avoiding and not sharing the gospel with? In your church culture are there any people who are avoided or hated, and how can our actions be more like Christ?

Author: Anita

"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:26-30 ESV These verses are the story of my life. A shy, introverted woman who didn't know how to relate to others and had a fear of anyone in authority - foolish, weak, low and despised. The most unlikely candidate for any position of leadership. But God delights to choose such, to take those who are not and make them something in Christ, to do the impossible through the unlikely. In 2006 Jesus sent me to the nations with His glorious gospel to set the captives free and prepare His bride for the wedding of the Lamb.

2 thoughts on “The Harvest is Ripe, Where You Least Expect It”

  1. * Jesus violated the Jewish customs and traditions and led his disciples through Samaria. The apostle John said that Jesus “had to go” through Samaria. This means that His journey through Samaria was on purpose. However, according to the Jewish traditions and customs, He did not have to go through Samaria. Jesus traveled with his disciples from Judea which is located in southern Israel to Galilee which in the north. In between the two places was Samaria, an area many Jews avoided. There had been distrust, bitter feelings, and hatred between Jews and Samaritans for centuries. They hated the Samaritans and considered them to be racial and religious half breeds. Because of that, they went around two longer routes to avoid them. It is important to note that, whereas Jews had a negative view of Samaritans, Jesus saw them as people who needed his love just like anyone else, and he treated them that way. In addition, Jesus had to go through Samaria with his disciples because the Father had sent Him into the whole world including Samaria, not just a small part of the world.”

    * According to the Jewish religious practices, Jesus on this occasion broke their customs by speaking to a Samaritan; speaking to a woman in public, and asking her for a drinking; which would have made Him ceremonially unclean because of using her water vessel. However, the major concern of Jesus was to do the will of the Father according to John 5:19. That is why he did not allow any man-made rules, traditions or expectations to stop Him from doing the will of his father. Like any other law abiding Jewish citizen, Jesus obeyed the rules of His community whenever they did not restrict obedience to His Father. He highly valued the will of the father above everything else. His focus was on ministering salvation and purity of heart, other than observing the ceremonial cleanliness that the Jewish people built on their traditions and practices.

    * As I have already indicated above, Jesus broke the Jewish religious practices by speaking to a woman in public moreover, a Samaritan. It is also important to note that His focus was to minister salvation and purity of heart instead of the man-made traditions that were being observed. Jesus saw that this woman had an open and hungry heart. And I can also imagine that His willingness to cross the boundary between the two territories had captured her attention. So He ventured straight into discussing spiritual things with her, just like He had done with the Jewish religious leader, Nicodemus. During their conversation, Jesus gently and prophetically exposed the heart of the woman to the truth of scripture and led her to salvation.

    Jesus showed her that His own death and resurrection would bring in a new access to God. That the worship of God would no longer be located in a certain place, like the temple in Jerusalem; and that Samaritans worshiped ignorantly. Jesus’s talk of salvation, and focus on true worship of the Father, stirred within this Samaritan woman the longing and expectations she had of a coming messiah from what Moses had written in Deuteronomy 18:18. He showed her that God is Spirit and seeks people who worship Him in spirit and in truth; explaining that worship would not be in man-made temples or churches, but in the inner sanctuaries of people’s hearts. And that God would not be the exclusive property of one race or one denomination. He fills the universe and is everywhere present.
    Therefore, during their conversation, Jesus introduced to the woman an element of friendship that cannot be ignored. It is interesting to see how her perception of Jesus had progressed as He gradually revealed himself. He went from being a man by the well to a Jew, to a prophet, and finally to the Messiah. The immoral Samaritan woman was greatly impacted by the ministry of Jesus in her life. Because of her invitation and testimony to her people, Jesus had a very impactful ministry to the Samaritans for the two more days that he stayed with them at their request.

    * It is most likely that the disciples of Jesus didn’t want to know what he was doing with the Samaritan woman or they were not prepared to learn that lesson. The bible shows that none of his disciples asked him what He was doing with the woman. Their focus was more on the food they had brought.

    * Observing the Jewish laws and restrictions was not enough to keep the Jews pure and acceptable to God. Therefore, God sent his son Jesus Christ to accomplish the mission of salvation for humanity, so that those who believe in him may be accepted before God.

    * In our community we don’t have any tribe, people group or denomination that our Christian community despises like the Jews did with the Samaritans. I can imagine that if they did exist, our Lord Jesus Christ would treat them equal. The bible shows that he loves all people; and he died for all people.

    * In my personal life I don’t see such doctrines, beliefs, or practices that Jesus might treat as irrelevant to what the Father is seeking. God’s love has called me to go to places that human divisions would have told me to avoid. And by the grace of God, Christ broke all barriers that would have existed between me and other people in my day-to-day life.

    * As a Christian community, we are careful not to let the social, ethnic or religious barriers keep us from befriending people who need to know the Lord Jesus, and who could enrich our lives and broaden our understanding of the love of God for all people. We know that our Lord Jesus Christ before He ascended to heaven, told his disciples, to go and make disciples of all nations. Because of that, we do our best to win people to Christ, by becoming friends with them, talking to them, listening to them, inviting them to our homes, showing them love, and helping those in need. This way, many have seen that we are really following God, and desired that we share Christ with them.

  2. * The Jewish custom and tradition stated that they had to avoid going through Samaria, but Jesus did violate such custom, He had to pass this way because of geography, it was the shortest route, but I think the words may also indicate that Jesus’ itinerary was subject to sovereign and providential plan of God it was divine necessity or requirements elsewhere that could bring His earthly mission agenda to fulfilment.
    * Jesus knows that the Jewish religious practice forbade speaking to Samaritans or having any interaction with them, yet He went against all these to show to the Jewish community that He came to save the entire Israelis and the whole world, therefore He decided to do away, bias, prejudices, and all forms social, political, and religious divisions. He came to bring eternal salvation to the world, hence to unified the Jewish and Samaritans and the whole world was His main goal.
    * The Lord Jesus Christ came to break that barrier of women not been taken as important in the Jewish community, so Jesus talked to that woman brought change of thinking and those whom were around saw that the great teacher came to the earth with a special mission to unite both men and women as the message of salvation does not belongs to men only but as well as women.
    * The disciples, according to the book of John saw Messiah talking with the woman but no one dares to asked Him why are you talking this lady, this might have made them to feel that really the Lord Jesus Christ was for everyone of them.
    * The Jewish laws and restrictions was good for them, nevertheless it makes them to self-righteous without having regards for God, in the sight of God, nobody can keep law and rules to make them totally pure before as we are all born as sinners, only the blood of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God can clean us from all sins.
    * Jesus’ example teaches us that we need to trust and believing in Him and by so doing we become pure and acceptable God because without Jesus no one can be saved, no amount of works or sacrifices can bring purity in our lives than receiving Him.
    * There are some religious groups that we sometimes consider them to be sects that we despised like the Jewish despised the Samaritans and we don’t have relationship with them at all, but I strongly believe Jesus will like to treat these people like the way He treated the Samaritans, because He loves everybody, black and white He died for all.
    * Yes, most of our strong doctrines or beliefs like tithes, women not allowed to take part in religious activities these are practices that Jesus might treat as irrelevant to what the Father is seeking.
    * There is no one we should avoid or not sharing the Good News to as Jesus Christ came to die for everyone tribe, nation, and race, nobody should be left behind. The gospel should be shared to everyone in our culture, whether we like them or not, they must hear the good news as the woman at the well and the Samaritans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.