Crossing Cultural Lines
In school did you ever have that kid or group of kids that no one would sit with or talk to? In fact, people would go out of their way just to avoid them, and when someone would stop and talk to them it would shock other students. In the context of a school this is an example of crossing a cultural line. As Christians we should not fear crossing cultural lines because Jesus did it all the time. When he crossed cultural lines and did things no Jewish man of his day would do he was sending a message to people everywhere. Inside that message is a question for each and every one of us. Are we going to obey and do the will of God or are we going to conform to what everyone around us is doing?
A powerful example of Jesus crossing cultural lines is when he stopped to talk to a Samaritan woman by a well. In this instance one of the first lines Jesus crossed was to travel through Samaria. Jewish people of his day usually went out of their way to avoid traveling through Samaria. It didn’t matter to them if it made for a much longer journey if they could avoid contact with people they considered unclean. Tensions at this time between Jew and Samaritans were high and in some instances became so violent that Roman troops were sent to restore the peace. The Samaritans were originally foreigners that the King of Assyria brought to settle Samaria. They intermingled with the Jewish people and developed their own branch of Judaism.
Jesus breaks another cultural line by initiating conversation with the Samaritan woman by asking her for a drink. The Samaritan woman responds by saying, “How is it that you a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:9-10) Jesus goes on to say that everyone who drinks from the well he and the Samaritan woman are at will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water Jesus offers will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
The Samaritan woman becomes astonished when Jesus shows her that he has divine knowledge of her personal life. He knew that she had five husbands and the man she was living with now was not her husband. This more than anything convinces the woman Jesus is no ordinary man. Then the woman gets religious with Jesus by asking him where the proper place of worship is. Jesus answers by saying, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and indeed is already here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know the Messiah is coming (he who is called the Christ.) When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:21-26)
The reason Jesus crossed cultural lines and talked with this woman of Samaria was to bring salvation to her. Not only to her but to all the people in her town. After they heard the Samaritan woman’s testimony the other Samaritans came out to see Jesus for themselves. Then they said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42) Jesus reached out over cultural lines with a message to all of us; the salvation God offers is for everyone, not just those we deem worthy. I think it’s human nature for us to think ourselves as more righteous than another group, but Jesus teaches us to overcome such thinking and reach out to those we consider unrighteous. In the end we are all unworthy of God’s salvation but by His grace he offers it freely to anyone who will receive it. Let us all strive to follow Jesus’s example and share salvation with everyone.
What nickname/s did you have growing up? How did they get started? Does anyone still call you that?
Question 1: Read Matthew 15:21-28
At first glance, these verses can be a little shocking! What are your first thoughts or questions that come to mind after reading this?
Look closely at verse 22. What does this say the woman knew about Jesus?
In this exchange, we first see Jesus is silent after the woman’s request, and then he seemingly insults her! Has there ever been a time that God was silent or seemingly insulting after you’ve cried out to Him for something? How did you respond? What can we learn from the Canaanite woman’s response?
Why do you think Jesus denied the Canaanite woman, then accepted her request later? What does this show about the character that God is looking for in his people?
Have you ever felt like you were being tested to see if you really believed God was good and had to exercise your faith? What happened?
What does this story teach us about the impact our faith can have on others?
Ask God to help you remember that no one is insignificant, including ourselves. Ask him to give you the strength and tenacity you need to boldly come to him in prayer and to keep believing even when he is silent. As we lead up to Easter, pray for God to open your eyes to oppression. Whether physical or spiritual, pray for freedom and victory in the lives of every person in Berks County!