Samaritans were a religious group that had a conflict with the Jews at the time of Jesus. They lived in the Samaria region and mixed Judaism with other beliefs. Jesus scandalized many Jews because he did not reject Samaritans.
How did the Samaritans come about?
Samaritans emerged when the people of Israel mingled with people of other peoples and beliefs.
After Solomon’s reign, the people of Israel divided into two nations: Israel and Judah ( 1 Kings 12:20 ). In Judah the people continued to worship God in Jerusalem, but in Israel the people turned to idolatry and mixed worship with God with other religions. The capital of the kingdom of Israel was Samaria.
After a long time of idolatry, the kingdom of Israel was conquered by the king of Assyria. Many Israelites were deported to other parts of the Assyrian empire and people from other conquered nations were placed in Samaria ( 2 Kings 17: 23-24 ). The new inhabitants of Samaria learned about God but mixed Judaism with the worship of other gods . The Jews who remained in Samaria mingled with the new inhabitants and thus the Samaritans emerged.
Samaritans followed a modified form of the Law of Moses. They believed that the right place of worship for God was on Mount Gerizim in Samaria, not in the temple in Jerusalem. The Jews despised the Samaritans because they distorted the Scriptures.
See also: who was the Samaritan woman?
Jesus and the Samaritans
In Jesus’ time, the Jews avoided any contact with the Samaritans, whom they considered unclean ( John 4: 9 ). But Jesus talked to Samaritans and proclaimed the gospel to them without prejudice. Many Samaritans believed in Jesus ( John 4: 39-41 ).
Jesus explained to the Samaritans that the important thing was not the place of worship to God. The most important thing was to worship God in spirit and in truth ( John 4: 21-24 ). He showed that the gospel is for everyone : Jews, Samaritans and people from all peoples and cultures.
See here: what does God say about racism?
In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus showed that we must love everyone, without looking at appearances . In the story, the “good Jews” did not help their wounded neighbor but the Samaritan, who was supposed to be their enemy, looked after him ( Luke 10: 31-34 )