And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” (John 4:27)
Jesus Was Not Concerned About Social Norms
The disciples of Jesus had gone into the city of Sychar to buy food when a woman of the city came to the well of Jacob to draw water. Being the sixth hour of the day or noon, the reasons for the woman coming alone to the well suggests she was not accepted by the other women because of her immoral lifestyle. She had been the wife of five men and was presently with a man who was not her husband. As the early morning chores required the women of the city to come to Jacob’s well for water, this woman would be shunned and spurned as the social norms of the day excluded sinners from fellowship. It was also the custom of the day that forbade a man from talking to a woman of any stature in public as this was seen as scandalous and unacceptable, including a man talking to his wife. Finally, the idea of a Jew and a teacher (rabbi) talking to a Samaritan was beyond comprehension as the Jews considered the Samaritan mongrel dogs as half-breeds. When the Assyrian Empire invaded Israel seven hundred years before, the policy of the Assyrians was to intermingle with the inhabitants of the land creating a mixed-race of half-Hebrew and half-Gentile. The interracial mixture of the people included combining pagan religion and the worship of the one true God to create the religion of the Samaritans. As the disciples of Jesus return from Sychar, they are shocked to see Jesus talking to a woman who was obviously an immoral woman and a Samaritan yet no one said anything to Jesus. What the disciples learned that day was how much they needed the mercy of God as much as this most unlikely beneficiary of God’s grace.
There were strong social and religious norms in the time of Jesus. He did not cross the lines of propriety to cause division but to show that all humanity needs the love and mercy of God. Speaking to a woman in public was just not done but Jesus was more concerned about the eternal spirit of the woman than social acceptance. The woman was created as a help-meet for the man and shared in a relationship with God as equal. Every social network within a community establishes certain norms that are acceptable or unacceptable and do not necessarily suggest wrong. The fact that it was against social norms to speak to a woman in public was not sinful or degrading but it would be detrimental if it prohibited one from telling another about God. Jesus would have talked to the woman whether social norms accepted it or not because His concern was for the eternal, not the carnal. It seemed evident the character of the woman was less than desirable because she came to the well by herself and at noon. From the conversation Jesus had with the woman, it became clear why she had to draw water by herself. Her moral standing in the community was shameful and thus she was shunned. Jesus walked through those social barriers to see a soul that needed more than physical water but the fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. The apostle John does not describe what the woman looked like but could she have been wearing the kind of clothes that immoral women wore? Did she have markings on her skin and piercings so common with the pagan lifestyle and did she walk in a presumptuous manner as a woman of the world? Jesus saw an inner spirit that had goodness still residing within. The Lord looked through the social norms of her character and saw a heart fertile to be harvested with the love of God.
Finally, Jesus Christ walked through the prejudices of His day and declared openly that a Samaritan needed the love of God as much as the pious Jew who thanked God he was not like other men. Social norms had emasculated the character of a breed of people that through no fault of their own were citizens of a foreign experiment. Jesus knew the woman was a Samaritan and He was well aware of the consequences of the social norm to Him speaking to an immoral woman of Samaria. What the Lord saw in the face of this defiled woman was the need for a loving hand and a kind voice. God loved the whole world to send His Son who told all men that everyone was important to the Father. Men can make distinctions to who needs the gospel of Christ but the word of God is living and active and able to change the lives of immoral women from Samaria or Main Street USA. What hinders many people from obeying the gospel is not their sin-filled hearts but the prejudice of those who have the grace of God refusing to share the gospel with a person whose skin is the wrong color or to whom the social norms of life have beaten down. Cultural hatred is strong against those of other religions as if they could not hear the gospel and obey. Jesus died on the cross to save everyone and that does not exclude anyone who is willing to come to the saving grace of God – even if they are prostitutes, homosexuals, and murderers, respected leaders of the community, religious zealots, Moslems, Mormons, atheists, devoted churchgoers, the misguided and misunderstood: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Jesus did not let social norms keep Him from sharing the good news of salvation to a woman at the well of Jacob. As a result, the city of Sychar came to know the love of Jesus Christ and all of this to the wonder of the twelve. Jesus remained two more days in the city of Sychar – going against all social norms. And many more believed because of His own word.