Persecution instigated by Saul of Tarsus leads to more evangelism. Philip, one of the Seven, first goes to Samaria and then to the Gaza road.
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You reveal your heart toward those that have been set aside by others in the way you sent Jesus directly to this Samaritan woman. He then reveals his heart in the way he gently but directly made himself known to her.
We pray that you would do the same for us and for others that we know – make yourself known in the most personal way that you can. Show us how we might join with you by making you known to those who are marginalized in this world. Help us also to exercise as great a faith as the official with the dying son.
Help us to put in the same amount of effort to get close to Jesus – the kind that would walk a full day to see him if needed. And help us to be willing to trust you even when we do not see the immediate answers to our prayers. You can be at work whether we see it or not.
Jesus was heading from Judea back to Galilee. Samaria was on the way, sort of. It might look that way with a quick glance at a map. When I personally have been in that region, however, that is not the way we have gone. When travelling between Judea and Galilee, we’ve always gone via the Jordan Valley, using the Jericho Road, which connects that valley with Jerusalem.
It is not too far out of the way, and I suspect for the Jewish drivers that I have been with it is also helpful not to have to go through the middle of the Palestinian areas of the West Bank. It seems that back in Jesus’s day they did the same thing for about the same reason. Just replace the word “Palestinian” in the previous sentence with “Samaritan.” We might think of it as choosing street that goes through our preferred neighborhood if one way is not that much farther than the other.
But Jesus “had to pass through Samaria.” The chapter tells us why as we read the story. He needed to have a conversation with a certain woman. Before it ends, he introduces himself to her as the Messiah (4:25-26). Speaking to his disciples, Jesus adds the somewhat cryptic remark, “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (4:34). That is why he had to pass through Samaria.
Doing the will of God is not always the most convenient thing. There may be other options. But Jesus knew how important it was to do the Father’s will. When planning our day, efficiency is not the only thing we should consider. We should wonder who we might get to talk to or what we might accomplish if we remain open to the Holy Spirit’s leading – that is, open to the Father’s will. It might not be obvious at first.
In Christ’s case, we can assume this is what he always did. In our case, it might be something we need to start. We might need to change our routine a little on a certain day. There might be a woman waiting for us at a well who needs to hear about living water.