What’s the big deal?

painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch - Woman at the Well

Jesus had asked the Samaritan woman for a drink. This seems like an ordinary request. Then why the incredulous response from the woman?

You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?
John 4:9

Why was it so unusual for a Jewish man to talk to a Samaritan woman?

First off, in Jesus’ day, it was radical for a man to be seen talking to a woman. Heck, men didn’t even speak to their wives in public. Not only that, Jews and Samaritans didn’t mingle. Jews wouldn’t even set foot in Samaria! (They traveled the long way around, to avoid passing through Samaria.) I’d say that’s extreme dislike.

A speech bubbleHow to help your child understand how Jews felt about Samaritans?
Ask: Is there food that you really dislike? What would you do to avoid having to eat this food? Push it away on your plate? Leave the table? Leave the house?

A bit of history is needed to understand this animosity. Around 700 years before Jesus was born, Jews were forced into exile (a long way from home) by conquering nations. But some of the people in the area of what later became Samaria, were allowed to stay. They intermarried with people from other nations who were shipped into their land. Fast-forward 70 years when the exiled Jews returned to Jerusalem, they snubbed these people as a “mixed race” and started calling them Samaritans.

And now, that radical Jesus is in Samaria, ignoring cultural restrictions; again.

Why did Jesus feel that he had to go to the avoid-it-at-all costs Samaria (John 4:4)? Because Jesus knew that this woman needed some “living water.”

Jesus knew that this woman was an outsider in her community; why else would she come to the well at noon, the hottest time of the day? Yep. To avoid running into other women. We usually assume this woman was an outcast because of her string of failed relationships (she’d had five husbands). But there is another reason she’d probably had so many husbands: inability to have children. A prime reason in those days, to not be accepted.

A speech bubbleMake sure your child understands the way this woman feels.
Ask: Have you ever felt left out?
(Adult: share a time in your life when you felt like an outcast.)

So… what can this story teach your child?

Sometimes you have to be radical like Jesus.

  • Talk to the person no one will sit with at lunch.
  • Include the loner in your games at recess.
  • Stand up to actions or words that bully another.
  • Offer support to your fellow classmates.
  • Realize that your actions can make you an outsider.
  • Make a plan for how you will deal with rejection.

Encourage your child to go for the living water – the “artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life” (John 4:13-14).


Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Speech bubbles from public domain via WPClipart.com.

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