In Sunday's Bible story, Jesus sat down at a well in Samaria and did the unthinkable: He talked with a Samaritan woman! At the time Jesus was on earth, the social food chain went like this: Jews don't talk to Samaritans. The strife between the two groups stretched back hundreds of years, to the Babylonian exile.
When the Babylonians attacked Judah, they moved a large group of God's people away from their homes. But some of the people - the poorest, sickest, least able to work - were left behind in the region that became known as Samaria. During the 70-year exile, those left in Samaria intermarried with their northern neighbors and practiced foreign customs. While the Samaritans still believed in God, they adapted their beliefs. They set up their own place of worship on Mount Gerizim.
The Jews who returned home from Babylon to rebuild God's temple in Jerusalem were dedicated to obeying and worshiping God, and they didn't agree with the Samaritans' practices. The Samaritans opposed the Jews' efforts to reestablish their nation. In time, the Jews' hate for the Samaritans grew-so much so, that a Jew traveling from Judea to Galilee would take a longer route to travel around Samaria rather than through it.
Jesus broke down social barriers when He traveled to Galilee by way of Samaria and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink. Jewish men did not speak to women in public. But Jesus was kind to the woman, and He offered a gift. Jesus offered the woman something no one else coud give her-living water. She wasn't quite sure what Jesus meant. But Jesus wasn't talking about water that she could physically drink; Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit who would satisfy her spiritual thirst. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to those who come to Him by faith.