In today’s Gospel, the dialogue between Jesus and a woman from Samaria is among the most lengthy and most theological found in Scripture.
Behind the conversation lies the animosity and rivalry between the Jews and the Samaritans. Samaritans shared Jewish ancestry, but Samaritans had intermarried with foreigners when they lived under the rule of the Assyrians. Samaritan religion included worship of Yahweh, but was also influenced by the worship of other gods. When the Jews refused Samaritan help in the building of the Temple at Jerusalem, the Samaritans eventually built a temple for themselves at Mt. Gerizim (the same mountain mentioned by the woman at the well). Like the Jews, the Samaritans believed that a Messiah would come.
The high point of the conversation is when Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah. His answer to the Samaritan woman’s questions about worship is meant to predict a time when worshipping in truth and spirit will become the way to worship.
After the conversation, the Samaritan woman becomes a disciple. Even though she is an outcast and not a Jew, she returns to her town to lead others to Jesus and to wonder whether she has found the Messiah. The Samaritan townspeople return with her to meet Jesus for themselves, and many are said to come to believe in him.Having come to know Jesus as the Messiah, the Samaritan woman becomes an evangelist to her own people.
The story is educational and Jesus uses his encounter with the Samaritan woman to teach his disciples that God’s mercy is without limit.