Clearly, the disciples were not ready to reach out to Samaritans. Much like Jonah, they seemed more open to the thought of God destroying them than saving them.
Clearly, the attitude of the disciples needed to be changed first. It is hardly surprising that Jesus warned the disciples not to go off and work in Gentile or Samaritan villages. They needed to be prepared.
Jesus prepared them on a number of occasions. He made statements making it clear that His message and mission was to all people (Luke 4 for example). He used non-Jews in positive roles in his messages (such as “The Good Samaritan”) and even compared them favorably to Jews on a number of occasions. He even did miraculous acts for Gentiles, such as to the Gadarene demoniac, and the Samaritan leper.
The Faith of a Canaanite Woman Matthew 15:21-28
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
In this you can see three attitudes the Jesus showed.
- Not worthy of my time v. 23
- Not worthy of my attention v. 24
- Not worthy of my respect v. 26
Jesus was mimicking the disciples’ attitude. The disciples said to Jesus… Send her away… she is annoying us… she is bothering us. She is not worthy of our respect, not worthy of our attention, not worthy of our time.
But in the end, Jesus gave her all three. He gave her His time. He gave her His attention. He gave her His respect.
The question is, Did the disciples get the message? I believe they did. For one thing… 30 years after this event, Matthew remembered it and took time to tell us it. Not only did Matthew remember, but Peter did as well, because Mark recorded Peter’s version of this event as well.
Secondly, according to Matthew, right after this event Jesus took them to an area near the Sea of Galilee, but this was an area where the people were also Gentiles. We often talk about the feeding of the 5000, but we often ignore the feeding of the 4000. But for many of us, perhaps, the feeding of the 4000 is more important. The feeding of the 5000 was for the Jews. But the feeding of the 4000 was for the Gentiles.This event was the largest single event where Jesus shared the good news with Gentiles (non-Jews), and he did it right after helping the Canaanite woman. Continuing with Matthew 15:
Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand
29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. 32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
You will notice in this story…. the disciples did not tell Jesus to send those people away because they were bothersome. They did not suggest that the people were not worth their time, attention, and respect. The only thing negative was that they did not know how they could help in feeding them.
Understand that the feeding of the 5000 already occurred. You might say that they should have known what Jesus would do. But to be fair, Jesus did not feed every group that came to him. And the only other group that Jesus fed was made up of Jews. Perhaps the disciples were not ready to see that what Jesus did with the Jews, He desired to do, and could do, with the Gentiles.
34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.” 35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children.
This showed Jesus working with Gentiles. Jews did not like Gentiles… but they had even bigger problems with Samaritans. Jesus gave another lesson.
A third passage was John 4. This is a long passage, you can read it yourself.
- In the first passage, Jesus goes to a Gentile region and reaches out to a Canaanite, or Gentile woman.
- In the second passage, Jesus goes to a Gentile region and reaches out to a group of Gentiles.
- In this third passage, Jesus reaches out to a Samaritan woman, and then to an entire Samaritan village.
What do we see. Jesus spoke to the Samaritan Woman… in a caring manner. He did this when the disciples were not around. When they came back they were surprised to find Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman. But this time they were getting smarter… They were thinking (in verse 27) “What is Jesus doing… why is he talking to her.” But they kept silent.
Jesus let them know that he was planting the seed of God’s work in this Samaritan village and giving the disciples the opportunity to join in God’s work by harvesting what was not planted. <Verse 37> It goes on to say that many Samaritans <Verses 38-42> The disciples were able to witness a great revival and even, in some small way, be a part of it.
What about us? Let me suggest that we need to be prepared to reach the Samaritans… the people around us who are not like us:
- We need to learn that others are worthy of our attention
- We need to learn that others are worthy of our time
- We need to learn that others are worthy of our respect
- We need to learn to interact with others (talk, share, help)
- We need to see that God is already working with others
- We need to jump in and join God in what He has already started with others