“Which one?” That’s what a typical Jew in Jesus’ time would have asked about this title. To many Jewish people, all Samaritans were bad. There was no such thing as a good Samaritan. The truth, of course, is that Samaritans were like other people. Some were good and some were bad.
Although the Bible does not specifically call him “the good Samaritan,” most Christians know the story about him. But what about the bad Samaritan? Who is this person? What did this individual do to deserve such a label?
When Jesus sat down to rest at Jacob’s well, a woman of Samaria came to draw water. When Jesus asked her for a drink of water, she was surprised and said, “The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9). Thus began an interesting conversation between the Lord and the Samaritan woman.
What kind of woman was she? When He told her to go and get her husband, she said she had no husband. Jesus then revealed her checkered past. “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband, what you have just said is quite true” (John 4:17-18). We are not told whether her five marriages ended in divorce or death of a spouse or a combination of both. We do know her situation when Jesus met her. She was living with a man. Even by the moral standards of the Samaritans, her life had gone bad. Yet ironically we see good points about her, and the Lord brought out the good that was in her to the fullest.
Though she was living in sin, this woman was not brazen and boastful about her situation. Had she been like some women today, she would have told Jesus, “Oh, I’m, not married. I live with my boyfriend.” That response is common. Women and men talk about living in fornication as if it is normal and acceptable; They “are proud and open” about the way they live when they ought to be ashamed. At least the Samaritan women did not try to shove her sin in Jesus’ face like some today do.
This woman was guilty, but she did not resent the Lord when He corrected her. She took His correction well. When He brought to light the sin in her life, she did not get mad and storm away. That is what many today do when you expose their sins. Although she evidently did and change the subject to worship, she was willing to keep listening to Jesus. When the Lord told her that the place where Samaritans worshiped was wrong, she again listened to His reproof instead of getting angry and refusing to listen (John 4:20-24). Instead, this woman who had been living a bad life did the best thing she had ever done. She went into the city and told the men, “Is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29). Because of her, many believed in Jesus (John 4:29).
We do not know what became of this woman. What we do learn is that we should do our best to reach bad Samaritans as well as good ones.
Kerry Duke, West End church of Christ, Livingston, TN