In the tiny country of Palestine among the small population of first century Jews, there were many religious outcasts. Among those outcasts, none were resented more than Samaritans. People in main stream Jewish religious acceptability despised Samaritans. Climbing Israel's ladder of religious respectability intensified resentment for Samaritans.

Samaritans were partly Jewish. Hundreds of years prior to the first century, their Jewish ancestors married people who were not Jews. Jewish resentment was so deep that Jews refused to associate with Samaritans (John 4:9). Occasionally Jesus' Jewish enemies tried to produce an emotional reaction against him by declaring he was a Samaritan (John 8:48).

Prior to his ascension, the resurrected Jesus told his apostles to be his witnesses in Samaria. Acts 8:4-13 stated that happened. The results: (1) there was a lot of rejoicing and (2) men and women were baptized.

Sharing news about the Christ brought hope to Samaritans. To a Bible student, that is not surprising. On one occasion Jesus dared travel across Samaria. On this trip, he took the initiative to offer hope to a Samaritan divorcee living with a man to whom she was not married (John 4:7-18). Jesus offered this divorcee living water. That is not an evangelistic outreach we would devise. Yet, extending hope to this divorcee was effective. As a result, many in the village of Sychar believed Jesus was the Savior of the world (John 4:39-42).

These Samaritans concluded Jesus was the Christ. During Jesus' ministry, few Jews reached that conclusion. Because Jesus gave a divorcee hope, the Samaritans in Sychar recognized his true identity. Because Jesus gave her hope, he taught Sychar.

In Matthew 8:10-12, Jesus made an incredible statement to a Jewish audience. A Roman military officer requested, "Heal my suffering servant." Jesus offered to accompany him to his home. The officer said that was unnecessary. He said, "Just say the word..." His faith astounded Jesus. No Israelite had shown such great faith.

Jesus then observed that many people who did not descend from Abraham would sit with Abraham in the kingdom of heaven. At the same time, Abraham's descendants would be denied a place in that kingdom.

Why? Faith in Jesus was generated by hope. The Roman military officer came to Jesus in hope. His hope produced faith. The combination of hope and faith produced unquestioning confidence, a confidence Jesus had not seen in Israel.

How big is your faith? How big is your hope? The size of your hope powerfully affects the size of your faith. You want to lead outcasts to faith? Help them find hope.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 2 September 2001

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