Read February 11-17 lesson here.
This lesson will focus on the “Christ offers me His living water” section from Come, Follow Me.
I’m pretty sure this is an actual picture of me this week. (Jokes.) I’m sorry this lesson is posted so late in the week, but its been a rough one, folks. I know you can relate because we all go through times when we feel like this. When you have days where you feel “heavy laden,” what can you do to pull yourself back up? Does the Savior truly give you rest?
What was the cause of so much contention between the ancient Jews and Samaritans?
The story of the woman at Jacob’s Well took place in a village called Sychar in Samaria (John 4:5). By this time the Jews had long since had “no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9). The history here goes back to when the 12 tribes settled in Israel. After King Solomon died around 930 BCE, the United Kingdom was divided among the 12 tribes. Ten tribes settled in the Northern Kingdom, thereafter referred to as Israel, while the remaining two settled in the Southern Kingdom, or Judah. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh settled the area of Samaria in the Northern Kingdom. Notice Jerusalem is in the Southern Kingdom. Jeroboam, was the first king of the Northern Kingdom and was often at war with Judah. The Northern Kingdom frequently fell into apostasy and worshiped pagan gods, including the Canaanite storm god Ba’al. The divisions and hostilities between the two kingdoms only escalated from here.
***I’m going to make an interjection here that may be helpful. It was a common understanding during this time that particular gods only ruled over certain pieces of land. It was not a common belief that god/s could be everywhere at once and care for everyone. For example, it was understood that the victor in a war or battle won because their deity or group of deities were stronger than the other group’s deity. So since the tribes were in Samaria, an area they presumed to have different gods, they began to listen to Samaritans who told them that they needed to worship their gods, such as Ba’al, in order to provide the rain water necessary for their survival. So they did. In doing so, they disregarded much of what Yahweh (or Jehovah) had taught them. Sometimes they remembered to worship Yahweh, but often did so in an incorrect manner. You can read the story of Jeroboam, the first king of the Northern Kingdom, and his worship of false gods here.
Around 721 BCE, the Assyrians, under Sargon II, conquered the Northern Kingdom and the ten tribes were scattered. This was a common war tactic at the time. The idea was if you deport the conquered peoples, the less likely it will be that they come back together to revolt. The Assyrians brought several groups into Samaria to live and mixed with the remaining Israelites.
Alexander the Great conquered the land in 332 BCE and brought Greek colonies to Samaria. Worship practices and scripture between the two groups became different as well. For example, the Samaritans accepted the Pentateuch, but but not the other writings of the Old Testament. The Samaritans claimed their Israelite heritage, but Jews of Jerusalem viewed Samaritans as unclean, genealogical mixed-bloods.
By Jesus’ time, hundreds of years of bitter history between the Jews and Samaritans resulted in deep-rooted, harsh feelings toward one another. For the Jews, a term of ultimate insult was to call someone a Samaritan. This feeling is recorded in John 8:48: “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and has a devil?”
(Remember Jesus’ parable of a half-dead Jew laying on the side of the road and the Good Samaritan had compassion on him? Wow, what a poignant lesson in love.)
Back to the story … It is unclear why Jesus took the route through Samaria back to Galilee, rather than through the Jordan valley. It was possibly due to mounting hostilities toward him in Judea, but likely because he knew of a certain woman in Samaria and the important role her testimony would play in converting many in her village. Either way, Jesus did not avoid the Samaritans as did the rest of the Jews.
Jesus’ talking to the woman of Samaria broke all of the complicated societal boundaries. It would have been uncommon for a man to be alone with a woman that was not family. Divorce had become common in the ancient Middle East, yet, only the men were given the authority to initiate a divorce. A meaningless reason to initiate the divorce would have been enough. Still, a woman having five husbands would have been unusual. Society would have considered her an outcast, which is likely the reason she was drawing water in the middle of the day. It is possible that Jesus sent his disciples away in order to have an uninterrupted conversation with her free from protests.
Further, Samaritans were viewed as permanently ritually impure. Jesus asked for a drink and the woman of Samaria was surprised because she knew that he would become ritually impure by drinking from her vessel. Then Jesus replied, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”
Have you considered the importance of the word “living” waters? Water from a jug or a pond can become stagnant. Living waters are a continual source of clean, fresh nourishment. Jesus emphasized, “…the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). What a gift.
I love that Jesus sought out this woman of Samaria, an outcast of outcasts. He knew her heart and in turn, she played an important role in her village by bringing others to Christ, as true disciples do. Can you imagine how differently she must have felt about herself after that experience? The people that deemed her an outcast were suddenly considering the importance of what she had to say. Her soul certainly would have found rest. I hope you know that just like the Samaritan woman, Jesus knows you and seeks to give you rest as well. He is more intimately involved in your life than you could ever imagine.
How can you actually draw from Jesus and His living water? What are sources of living water?
The scriptures are certainly a source of living water. As you read them, the Spirit will testify to you of their truthfulness. When I dig deeper into the history, the more I understand the scriptures, which allow me to better understand the Savior and the impact of His teaching.
What can you do to become closer to Christ? Learn of Him.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
When you partake of the bread (of life) and (living) water this week in Sacrament, consider what you can do to partake more fully in what Jesus is offering.
The best lesson you could teach this week is to show love others more fully than before. Follow Jesus’ example of uninhibited love and try to remove the filters of ill feelings and societal prejudices and viewpoints from your eyes as you interact with others.