John 4:5-44 — Teach without Prejudice — LeGrand Baker

Many species of animals are territorial and will defend their home or hunting ground with great vigor. Humans are territorial in that same way, but in many other ways as well. Our territory might be the high school “in-group” that the nerds are not allowed to join; or the conservative social club where the newly rich are not invited; or the academic elite where the “others” do not have the right to have an opinion; or the “good old boys” and their wives where new comers are looked down on with distrust. They are all territories (political, religious, social, cultural, economic) where the “chosen” may belong but where the “others” are not welcome. Most religions teach that their community is made up of God’s “chosen” people, where strangers are not welcome, or where converts must learn to fit in and conform in order to be “chosen” also.

The Jews were, by definition, God’s chosen people. That is their greatest strength because it is the cohesive power that has enabled them to keep their identity for the last 3,000 years. It was also their greatest weakness because it alienated them from other people, and the “others” from the Jews.

The way the Jews understood their special relationship with their God was at the root of their hatred for the Samaritans. The Jewish version of their history says that when the Assyrians captured the ten tribes and deported to the north, they filled Samaria with non-Israeliltes who were deported from other conquered lands. The Samaritan version of their history is that some Israelites remained there after the Assyrian conquest and others returned later, so the people in Samaria were as much “Israel” as were the Jews (The truth probably is a combination of both versions.)

When the Jews returned from Babylon and began to build their Second Temple, the Samaritans offered to help. The Jews rejected the offer because the Samaritans were not “chosen” and therefore were not worthy to worship Jehovah or to be in the temple. So the Samaritans build their own temple on their sacred mountain, Mount Gerizim. The two temples were centers of two different religions, and both worshiping Jehovah, until about 129 B.C. After the Jews rebelled against their Greek overlords and estabilashed their own government, the Jewish leader, John Hyrcanus, invaded Samaria and razed their temple on Mt. Gerizim. They could destroy the Samaritans temple, but their military superiority could not ameliorate the Samaritan hatred for the Jews, nor did it it lessen the Jewish contempt for the Samaritans. (That mutual repugnance has remained unchanged for 2,500 years.)

In Jesus’s time the Jews read the Law differently from the way Moses wrote it. After the Babylonian captivity they edited the Law completely. The editors left so many fingerprints in its new wording that many modern scholars believe that the Law was not written earlier than the third or fourth century B.C. After the editing, the Jews understood the Law of Moses to say they could neither share food nor drink with non-Jews, that included the Samaritans. {1}

So one can understand the Samaritan woman’s surprise when Jesus spoke to her, and her even greater surprise when he asked her for a drink.

5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.
7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.
17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain [their temple on Mount Gerizim]; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?
28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.
31 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.
32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?
34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.
38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.
39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.
41 And many more believed because of his own word;
42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
43 Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee.
44 For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country (John 4:5-44).

Jesus did not acknowledge the prejudices that either side felt for the other. We do not know how far the gospel spread among the Samaritans after the Savior was there. However, the resurrected Christ instructed the apostles to preach the gospel to the Samaritans as well as to the Jews. Luke reports,

1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight (Acts 1:1-9).

One who went to Samaria was Philip who was a very successful missionary there (Acts 8:4–25).

As members of the LDS Church, we have the same charge that the resurrected Savior gave to his disciples. We must embrace others without prejudice. Sometimes that is as difficult for us to do as it was for the Jews to accept the Samaritans or the early Christians to accept the gentiles. We also live in cultures with built-in biases, and sometimes it is as hard for us to overcome those artificial boundaries as it was for them — and that is no more a valid excuse for us than it was for them.


{1} See Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, the chapters called “The Ancient Jewish Apostasy that Rearranged the Order of the Psalms and Changed the Festival Drama” and “Evidences of Ancient Jewish Apostasy.”


This entry was posted in John. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply