In John 4:3-6 we read:
3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
Now the thing is that in terms of normal journey expectations, although the quickest route as the crow flies between Judea and Galilee is straight through Samaria, this constituted a detour for Jews who preferred to take the long route round to avoid contact with and contamination from the hated Samaritans.
So when John tells us that Jesus “had to pass through Samaria” this seems rather strange. The implication is not that this was a geographical necessity but that there was something constraining Jesus to go by that route. In fact, when we get further into the passage, we discover why Jesus had to go that way. He had an appointment with a seeker, the woman at the well. She did not know it yet but Jesus had purposed to meet with her.
Our Life Group have been watching the Chosen and the episode that picks up on this episode captures the issues well. We see Jesus’ disciples bewildered as they plan to go the usual route and Jesus insists that no, they must go through Samaria, he has a meeting to keep. They protest vigorously, the journey is unthinkable, costly and potentially dangerous. Yet Jesus insists that this is the way he is going.
I can’t help thinking that this specific, intentional detour motivated by grace reflects something of the bigger story of the incarnation. You can imagine the protests of the angels. Why would the exalted son want to lay aside his glory? Why would he go through the route of incarnation, life amongst rebels, suffering and death in order to return to his throne again? Yet Jesus persisted in that intentional detour of grace. Jesus had an appointment with The Cross and with you and me.
I was moved to thankfulness as we watched the episode but we were also challenged. Are we prepared to make intentional detours of grace? Are we prepared to have our convenient plans interrupted? Are we ready for those appointments God has got planned for us to meet with people who desperately need his grace?