Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!


(Map from blueletterbible.org)

John 4:1-4:

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John”—although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized—he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria.

When you look at this map of the times, you can see exactly what the issue is. Samaria is smack dab in the middle between Galilee and Judea. Crossing the Jordan and "going around" is rather out of the way. The problem was, of course, is that Jews and Samaritans didn't get along. They got along about as well as the Hatfields and the McCoys, the Serbians and the Croatians, or the Hutu and the Tutsi. It was an animosity that went clear back before the division of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms in the Book of Kings.

When Assyria took control of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E., the Jews were deported and the Assyrians moved in. Consequently, the religion of the area was more of a syncretism--The Samaritans used the Torah as their holy book, but they also worshiped the Assyrian gods. It was not a "pure" religion in the eyes of the Jewish population, who was exiled. When the exile from Babylon ended under the reign of Cyrus, the Samaritans had initially welcomed the Jews, but the former exiles would have none of it.

It sets the stage for many Gospel stories, including the one later on in chapter 4 of John, the story of "Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well," as well as the best known Gospel story involving a Samaritan, "The Good Samaritan."

But here's the sad fact: DNA studies show that the average Samaritan had a lot of Jewish bloodline, some even from the priestly Kohanim. Sure there were some Assyrians, Persians, etc. in the mix, but in reality, the Samaritans were probably genetically more like their adversaries than they were different.

There is a take home message in that. All that hatred, manifested in two groups of people who ultimately, were more alike than different, sharing incredibly similar DNA and both sharing the same holy book.

How many times do we feel we are journeying through our own Samaria?

Dealing with people who have prejudices can be a seemingly impossible task. They have notions about us that are stereotypes, and vice versa. The most awful stories often have a kernel of truth buried in them. Or, on a more personal level, perhaps the worst kind of Samaria is a personal one, involving an "ex" of some sort, sometimes an "ex" in which once there was shared psychological or physical intimacy. These forms of Samaria raise our hackles in a very special kind of fear. We are dealing with people who know our deepest intimacies, and again, vice versa.

We have choices. We can cross a river and go around the long way, or we can choose to walk through Samaria.

But in the rest of the story in John 4 we know what happens. Jesus encounters the woman at the well, and the woman at the well is changed. This would not have happened if Jesus had chosen to take the long way home.

Who will change, if we go straight through Samaria instead of taking the long way around? How will we change in this trip? It is not an easy trip...but perhaps it is the best trip.

2 comments:

Thought provoking. Thanks.

Lovely, and this truly opened my eyes...thank you! :-)

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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