Study Guide: Through Samaria

Sunday February 1, 2015 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In this final installment of the Women on the Outside series, we explore the story of the woman at the well Jesus encountered while traveling through Samaria and how he dives right in to the gender and racial tensions of the first century Jewish culture.

Extended Summary:

The story of the woman at the well starts out specifying that Jesus had to go through Samaria. This is an important note of context given the extremely contentious relationship between the Jews and Samaritans. Although the Samaritans were also descendants of Abraham, given their history of intermarrying with the Gentiles and their different theological views, the Jewish people viewed them as unclean half-breeds. It is clear given this context that Jesus’ visit there was intentional.

As His disciples went in to town to get food, Jesus sat down by the well and the interaction with the woman began. This was an extremely scandalous encounter given her ethnicity, gender, and being alone. Jesus ignored these social taboos and dove right in to her life in a way that showed her both his power and grace. Jesus saw her as a woman, not a category fit to be judged. He pierced through the societal ostracism she was likely experiencing that would have forced her to be at the well at noon and rather saw her as a child of His Father that was thirsty for fullness of life. He understood she was searching for fulfillment in the wrong place but never condemned her.

She went off to town and told everyone to “come see a man who told me everything I ever did.” Given her checkered past, the only way this would have been good news that produced the joy in her it did is if she felt completely accepted for who she was with Jesus. He knew everything there was to know about her and that didn’t change His love for her one bit. God isn’t a Pharisee or religious teacher that would use this knowledge to judge and separate her; rather He simply offers living water that brings true fulfillment. You know you’re starting to get the right picture of God when you realize He knows everything about you and it drives you to him filled with joy instead of away feeling shame. Ironically, it’s not trying harder to reject our sinful life that helps us out, but rather learning to known and accepted as we are, and letting the power of that revelation pull us out of a life of sin and darkness and in to the light.

In addition to the grace Jesus shows the woman given her circumstances, the second key point is why Jesus “had” to go through Samaria. It was part of His mission because tearing down walls that separate people is close to the Father’s heart. Jesus constantly confronts the religious and social classes that the Jewish culture put people in to based on their gender, wealth, class, and ethnicity. His mission was to “make the two groups (Jews and Gentiles) one, destroying the walls of hostility” (Eph 2:14) and make clear that “all are one in Christ” (Gal 3:28). This “had to” that Jesus lived in must be a “have to” in our life as well. If we want the Kingdom to come in our life we must be confronting and tearing the down the walls of hostility created by our homogenous leaning culture. We are called to be faithful, not comfortable. We are to be a people in which the reconciliation of all things is a central pillar in our life. The question is, what Samaria is God calling me to go through?

Reflection Questions:

  1. What further questions do you have about the text in John? Is there anything unclear about the context?
  2. Where do you see yourself in the story? Why?
  3. Which point impacted you more hearing the story: (1) Jesus’ graciousness with the sinful woman, or (2) His intentionality in going through Samaria to confront racism?
  4. Spend some time in reflection. Where is God showing you areas of your life that need diversification?
  5. Is there a difference between your perception and reality of how many people are in your life that don’t look like you, think like you, live where you live, etc?
  6. What are some concrete steps that you could take to diversify your life and go “through Samaria?” How will you hold yourself accountable to these plans?