4 But He needed to go through Samaria.
Verse 4 is a digression to explain God’s purpose for Jesus going through Samaria.
The “but” here indicates a qualification. This may indicate that there was a divine purpose in Jesus’ taking an unusual route to Galilee from Judea. It was God’s will that Jesus meet the woman at the well.
He needed to go through Samaria.
Going through Samaria was the shortest route to Galilee. The normal and longer route was through Perea east of the Jordan River.
The word “needed” is the word must. The idea is that it was a logical necessity that Jesus go through Samaria. A logical necessity, for example, is that a triangle “must” have three sides. Jesus did not change geographical locations from human pressure but because He must operate on a divine agenda.
The direct route through from Judea to Galilee was not the normal way for strict Jews to travel. They viewed the Samaritans as a mixed race—half Jew and half Gentile. There was a mutual hatred between Jews and Samaritans. Bias of the Jews created a situation where they would go far out of their way to avoid walking through Samaria. They would go a great distance east to the Jordan Valley, walk north up the Valley, and then go west to Galilee. Jesus, however, did not take that route but went straight north to Galilee. In doing so He went through the forbidden Samaria.
This hostility between Jews and the Samaritans went back to the captivity of the Northern Kingdom. The Assyrians repopulated Samaria with people from other countries in 722 B.C. (2 Kgs 17:24f). They intermarried with Jews and eventually assumed the God of Israel, albeit their worship was adulterated.
When the Southern Kingdom returned from the Babylonian capacity, the Jews refused help from the Samaritans to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Hatred became intense between the two. The Samaritans eventually built their own rival temple on Mount Gerizim in 400 B.C. after the Jews rejected their help in rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem in 450 B.C. They developed their own form of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) and accepted only the Pentateuch as their Bible. They severed themselves from the Psalms and other books that would have been a blessing to them. By the time of the New Testament, the bitterness was deep between the two groups.
Christians need to decipher what is divine necessity.
God’s will may take on a different direction than what our presumptions might be. On the one hand, Jesus walked away from a controversy in Judea, but then He went straight into a people who hated the Jews.
It was God’s will that Jesus chose this inconvenience so that He might reach one of His lost sheep, a woman of ill repute. He was under divine necessity. Jesus was a person who was free of prejudice and bias toward either the Samaritans or the morally reckless woman. Prejudice is a loose idea closely held.
Jesus would meet with both an immoral woman in Samaria and Nicodemus who was male, single, and highly principled. Our Lord broke through social and religious bias because He loved people no matter how moral or immoral they might be.
Cultural acrimony is no reason to neglect those for whom Christ died. The Samaritans also were religious apostates, but that should be no reason to abandon them.