Brisk trade in the morning promised solid profits in the afternoon; until the crowds disappeared because of a lady’s cry: “He’s told me all I ever did!’
Traders gaped across the vacant square; wondering why we’d worked so hard to set up our stalls for the market…
“Was it something we said?”
“Are our goods suddenly too expensive?”
“What’s she selling? Because she’s cornered the market!”
Securing our stalls, we followed her out through Sychar’s gates.
At Jacob’s well, she picked up a water-jar. Near those Galileans I’d been puzzled to see earlier; for Jews habitually avoid Samaritans. If they’d stayed undetected in the crowded market, they were in full view now...
Especially when she shouted: “This one! Surely he’s the Messiah!”
Under their collective gaze he seemed relaxed. A woman sniggered: “That Rebekah’s had many men; is this one so special?” And to me he looked like your average rabbi.
Smiling, he told his disciples: “Don’t think the harvest is months away, for there are always people who are ready to enter God’s kingdom. He is not restricted by seasons or by holy places. As I told Rebekah, he seeks us to worship him in spirit and in truth – not in temples that people argue about.”
The disciples began mingling with the crowd, as curious clusters formed around them – but mostly around their leader.
I asked one disciple – called John - why they hadn’t used the normal road that Jews travel to avoid crossing Samaria.
“Jesus said we must return this way to Galilee,” he replied, “and we’re learning that he knows best. See, people are receiving him, so we’ll be here for a while. It looks like he was right again.”
As sunset approached, women were surrounding Rebekah; laughing and crying; and hugging her like a long-lost friend.
“Please stay here, Jesus. We’d like to hear more from you back in the square tomorrow!” the mayor asked.
Jesus agreed, so we all went back into town.
Early next morning Jesus started again. I can’t recall everything he said, but his stories told how different life can be as we let God rule our plans and our responses to problems.
How he accepted everyone was amazing. He even let little kids feel important - when other teachers push them away. I saw cripples healed; blind people stepping back, squinting in unexpected glare; deaf people holding their ears against noise-levels they’d never suspected…
When a leper rushed up everything stopped; until Jesus touched him. Then, ripping back his sleeves and kicking off his sandals, he showed us his fingers and toes completely restored.
We praised God like never before, as an ex-leper danced for joy!
Two days flowed with questions, prayers and stories; and food vendor colleagues did very well.
Late on the second day the mayor announced: “Rebekah, you’ve blessed our city by introducing us to these Galilean friends. Please accept our apology for our attitude to you.”
Then, turning to Jesus: “This man has changed you; which attracted our interest. But now we have met him, we know he is the Saviour of the world!”
In two days, the Messiah had consumed a thousand years of the hatred that arose when Israel’s northern tribes rejected Jeroboam as King Solomon’s successor. Yet we Samaritans cannot claim any high moral ground, with Ahab and Jezebel in our royal line!
The hatred increased five hundred years later, when the Jews refused our help to rebuild Jerusalem’s temple - because we’d built one on Mount Gerazim! How arrogant was that, when they themselves had also fallen under God’s judgement!
Yet having met Jesus, I know now that I can worship God anywhere and share his grace with anyone.
When business took me down past Jericho last month, I visited the temple in Jerusalem on the way - pretending to be mute to hide my Samaritan accent. And afterwards, towards Jericho, I found myself rescuing a mugging victim. I can’t remember his name, but I paid for his recovery time in a local inn. Still, nobody’s ever likely to hear about that.
God’s blessings outweigh my fears and my prejudices – and his blessings just keep coming. Oh yes, I was angry at first about my set-up time being wasted, when all our customers left the market. But from seeing how Jesus chewed up a whole millennium of malice within only two days, I’m learning to let God flavour my interruptions, so he can open up his blessings and spread them around.
Author’s note: Jesus’ parables are unlikely to include real people, to avoid misplaced emphasis. I’ve fictionalised details around his visit to Samaria in John 4, as a background to his parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10. Not to try to nail historical details onto a timeless principle, but to highlight the fact that in two days at Sychar he met more Samaritans – good or bad - than any of his hearers would have ever dared to!
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