The story of the Samaritan woman at the well is found in the fourth chapter of John’s gospel. Jesus sets the example for us by doing several things wrong here. By “wrong” I mean he didn’t follow proper procedure for first century Jewish culture. He went against the conventions of culture to share the good news.
In the first place, verse 9 tells us that Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. He shouldn’t even have been talking to her. She questioned why he addressed her at all. The Jews and Samaritans had split, and among other things disagreed about where one could even worship God (v. 20). That’s why the story of the good Samaritan is so pointed in its message; the last person to help a Jew would have been a Samaritan and vice versa. In addition to being a Samaritan, a first century Jewish man would not have started a conversation with any woman. So yes, she was quite surprised. As the story goes on, we learn more about this particular Samaritan woman. She had been married five times, and was now living with a man that was not her husband. That’s why she was at the well alone, instead of with the other women from that town. They didn’t associate with her. Perhaps she had even stolen one of their husbands. She was somewhat of an outcast in her community. The woman didn’t associate with her because they didn’t like her, and a man didn’t want to be seen talking to her for the trouble he could get into. Jesus, however, used their discussion of well water to talk about living water, and share the gospel message.
Jesus is always talking to people he shouldn’t be. The Samaritan woman is just one example. There are also tax collectors, lepers, and adultresses. Fisherman weren’t too high up on the social ladder in Jewish society either, and Jesus had a few of those guys as apostles. Jesus’ example is that labels created by society are not the same standards God uses to value a person. Think about the tax collector and Pharisee who prayed in the temple. The tax collector fell on his face and begged God for mercy. The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like other men, especially this tax collector here. Jesus said the tax collector went away righteous because he recognized his sinful condition with humility and asked God’s forgiveness. The Pharisee in his pride considered himself righteous already. Jesus teaches that no one can judge but God, and by his standards, we are all sinfully unworthy. So the value judgments society places on an individual’s worth are often ignored by Jesus. He spends most of his time talking to the working class of regular people, and away from the high-brow religious leaders of his day. Most of Jesus’ parables are about fishing, sowing seeds, herding sheep, plowing a field; manual labor. His audience is blue color, or lower. When we do find Jesus having an honest heart to heart with a Pharisee (Nicodemus, John chp. 3) he tells him they cannot discuss spiritual or heavenly things if Nicodemus doesn’t even understand earthly things. So what do we learn from Jesus’ example?
The poor, the weak, the lame, the leprous, the working class and the women that society demanded be left alone, Jesus talked to, associated with, and preached the gospel to. Those in need were the ones he shared with, not those who felt they had all they needed. They were also in need, but blinded. Who does our society avoid? Who are we “not supposed” to talk to? They too are created in the image of God just like the kings and queens of this earth. And are likely who Jesus would be spending his time with.