A legitimate question may be asked: Why would even consider seeking to answer the question of John’s use of “the Jews” by looking at the Gospel of John in the context of Samaritan beliefs and interactions (though not only)? In brief, the answer is on account of the importance given to the Samaritan mission by the early Jesus-believing Jews:
In Acts 1: 8, we read Jesus’ post-resurrection instructions to the disciples not to leave Jerusalem. He told them “… you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” While it has been traditionally assumed that Samaria simply is a geographical half-way point between Jewish Judea and the Gentile ends of the earth.
In Acts 8: 25 we read about the extensive preaching of the Gospel in the Samaritan villages: “… they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans”.
In Acts 8: 14 we are told that the apostles Peter and John were sent to the Israelite Samaritans. The fact that John was actually in Samaria and was commissioned by the rest of the apostles to go and inspect the Samaritan’s reception of faith in Jesus is important for our argument. Interestingly enough, the book of Acts places the apostle John, who from early times was held to be the author of this gospel, at the heart of the mission to the Israelite Samaritans in spite of his early anti-Samaritan stand (Luke 9:52-55):
“And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.” (Acts 8:9-14)
In John 4, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman. The chapter begins by specifying, “Jesus had to go through Samaria” (Jn. 4.1). When His disciples returned from the Samaritan village, he told them the source of his supernatural strength. His strength comes from doing God’s will by being part of His final harvest-gathering activity:
Look around you! Vast fields are ripening all around us and are ready now for the harvest. ” (Jn. 4:35).
While in Samaritan territories, Jesus pointed out that the disciples needed to think outside the box and include “heretical” Israelite Samaritans in their vision for spiritual harvesting. Jesus rightly claimed that the harvest was ready to be reaped. He was referring to the apostles and their future mission to the Samaritans in particular, and by extension to all nations of the world. Both ideological locations (“Heretical and Adversarial Samaritans” and “Gentile nations”) were not natural places for Israelite Jewish disciples of Jesus to look for a spiritual harvest.
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