The gospels include stories of Jesus sharing the good news of God’s kingdom with people from other cultures.
In John 4, we read the well-known encounter and life-changing conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. This is a beautiful story that allows us to catch a glimpse of God’s heart.
Samaritans were culturally different from the Jews; they were rejected and unwelcomed. But Jesus breaks through cross-cultural barriers to reveal himself.
Jesus crossed boundaries that keep people apart to form a relationship, to bring hope and salvation.
Through his actions, Jesus teaches us the power of the gospel to remove barriers – ethnic, gender and religious – that prevent this woman from getting the living water she needs.
Jesus avoids going through the preferred and comfortable road from Judea to Galilee. He risks going through Samaritan territory where people will know he is not from the area.
Not being from the area and having a different accent may mean one gets a skin or accent tax or no attention at all at a local family restaurant. But Jesus knows the reward far exceeds the risks.
When he meets the woman, he asks for a drink of water. Instead, he receives an unsympathetic and confrontational response. “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (John 4:9).
The woman knows Jesus is not supposed to be talking to her. He is a Jew. Jews look at Samaritans as religiously and ethnically inferior.
She is both a Samaritan and a woman, and by way of his contact with her he will be contaminated.
Throughout her conversation with Jesus, the Samaritan raised several objections – social, cultural and religious – but Jesus breaks through each of them and becomes an agent of God’s love.
He wants this woman to know the “gift of God” and drink of his “living water” (John 4:10).
She has been discriminated against and regarded as of lesser worth in a nation and culture that pushes some people down and lifts others up based on manmade barriers.
He wants to restore and give her hope. He wants to satisfy her deepest thirst with “a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
The woman’s eyes slowly open and Jesus perceives the time to reveal himself as the Messiah in John 4:25-26.
At this point, the disciples arrive and are dumbfounded because Jesus was talking to a woman; they fail to understand what had just happened (John 4:27).
After meeting Jesus, she becomes an evangelist to those in her town. She goes back and tells them of this God who loves everyone and crosses cultural, social and religious barriers to demonstrate his grace.
Where is Samaria today? Who are the Samaritans among us who need to hear about this God who restores and gives hope?
Samaria today may be just a house down the road or a few miles away from your neighborhood.
The more than 52 million Hispanics living in the United States are surely part of the Samaritans living among us.
They work in the restaurants you dine at, and on the farms picking the fruit and vegetables you eat. They build your houses, clean your office buildings, attend school with your children and so much more.
Jesus invites us to follow his example to go into forbidden territory to be in relationship with racially rejected and unwelcomed people so we can share the hope we have found in him.
Juan Aragón is the Hispanic ministries’ strategist for the West Virginia Baptist Convention of the American Baptist Churches, USA. A version of this article first appeared in the April-May 2014 edition of The West Virginia Baptist Newsletter and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter: @jaragongarcia.