In John 4, we learn fairly quickly that Jesus was leaving Judea, with the destination of Galilee in mind. However, Jesus passes through Samaria on the way. John 4 is about to get interesting as we follow Jesus on his holy pitstop. Verse 4 says, "And he had to pass through Samaria." The Greek translation of dei ("had to") is used at other points throughout John to suggest a divine necessity.
Jesus intentionally going to Samaria would be like us intentionally going to "the armpit of our neighborhood/city/state/country." (You can decide what your own Samaria might be...!) Does that make you reel? Does that make you wrinkle your nose with... disdain?
According to Merriam-Webster, disdain is "a feeling of contempt for someone or something regarded as unworthy or inferior". The Samaritans were the object of disdain from both Jews and non-Jews, alike.
Have you ever experienced disdain? I have been on both the giving and receiving end. Neither is preferable. Disdain can be a way in which we re-order and re-define people so that they are less-than-human and have no value. This then makes it "okay" for us to treat them differently, or ignore them outright. And this is not what Jesus is about.
Remember that we are fresh on the heels of John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life", and consequently we can be excited that Jesus was willing to intentionally visit "the armpit". (And, not just visit, but save everyone, everywhere, to the "uttermost", as it says, in Hebrews 7:25.
For God so loved the world (including Samaria)... Personalize it... For God so loved the world (including *insert your name here*). For God so loved the world (including *insert your "armpit" here*)...
How does all of this influence our prayer life? How should we pray differently in light of this passage in John?
The intentions of Jesus can be lived out in our prayers and actions as we intentionally pray for people, situations, or places that we might otherwise mistreat or ignore out of our disdain.
Spend some time in prayerful reflection with God.
Who, what, or where is your "armpit"?
Ask God to help you replace disdain for his true compassion. We can't generate it on our own. This is where daily presence is going to come in handy!