Biases Exposed

John 4:39 “Many of the Samaritans…believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony” (NIV).

Observation: This passage follows the lengthy description of Christ’s meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. In the end she became a trumpet of good news, encouraging others in her city to “come, see” this remarkable man, Christ Jesus. She had earlier noticed Jesus’s break with custom and asked, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (John 4:9).

Application: In this single encounter, Jesus broke both sexual and racial taboos. But here is something easily missed in the story: Jesus went into the Samaritan city and taught them for two days. Verse 39 says that many believed in Him because of the testimony of the woman at the well, but in verse 42, His greater impact is shown when Samaritans tell the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”

I am guilty of past casual attention to this, as it shows Jesus clearly and assertively destroying cultural icons. It isn’t just that He talked to a woman who was also a Samaritan. After all, didn’t He in another story praise the Samaritan who stopped to help an injured stranger? No, what we see here is something more profound than a forbidden conversation at a well. Jesus pushes far beyond that exchange by interacting among Samaritans for two full days. Why then did Peter’s later dream seem such a breakthrough when he was shown he should preach to the household of Cornelius, a Gentile? Peter is quoted as saying, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34, NIV). Later, when word of this got back to the Messianic Jews in Jerusalem, they criticized Peter thus: “You went into the house of uncircumcised men [Gentiles] and ate with them” (Acts 11:3, NIV).

Well, yes. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus had done by accepting Samaritan hospitality for two days? He is our model, our pattern. Yet Peter and the Jerusalem brothers, some of whom had surely participated in the Samaritan visit, had not allowed that startling example to alter their firmly held biases. The fact that many Samaritans had believed had not changed the arrogant paradigms long held by Jewish tradition. I wonder how much of what I “know” to be right, really is. When I am honest, I must admit that the box I have constructed to contain my religious beliefs seems to need its sides blown out by the insistence of Jesus to have His way rather than my own.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for this reminder to reexamine my convictions to be certain anew that they are Yours, rather than my own construct.

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