Read John 4:19-26 and you’ll see Jesus knocking down one huge barrier in Samaria that still stands between many people and God today. And the craziest thing about the method that Jesus used was that he actually used God to do it!
When the Samaritan woman at the well brings up the issue of religion Jesus gets her back to the point that a lot of people in religion miss by getting her back to the starting point instead of focusing solely on the end point. And why did he do that? Because the fastest way to tear down a wall is by starting at the bottom where it rests on the foundation; not by hitting all of the bricks that are sitting on top.
Now were the Samaritans wrong in their religion and religious behavior? Yes! They accepted the Torah as God’s word, but they rejected the prophets. They worshipped God but they rejected the circumstances God required (i.e. they chose Mt. Gerizim and their own priests over Jerusalem and the Levites). They had a desire to be God’s people but they fought against the people of God. So yes, Jesus does correct the woman, but he doesn’t tackle these issues in-depth one at a time – instead he gets her away from Judea, away from Samaria and away from religion for a moment by getting her back to God.
Jesus tells the woman what kind of person God is looking for. He knew what kind of person she was, she knew what kind of person she was, but Jesus brings her to God by telling her what kind of person she could be! He lets her know that the time had come when God would remove the religious barriers that separated people. There would be no more Samaritan, no more Jew, no more Mt. Gerizim and no more Jerusalem to use as barriers, but rather an acceptance of people by God who had a hunger for him. Not a hunger for religion, but a hunger for a relationship.
And guess who gets brought up when the barriers get torn down? The Messiah! The same Messiah introduced by John the apostle in John 1:1,14, the same Messiah proclaimed by John the baptizer in John 1:29, the same Messiah who taught a top-notch Pharisee that a physical birth wasn’t going to be enough to be a member of God’s kingdom in John 3:3-5 and the same Messiah who would create a body of united believers by breaking down barriers through his broken body.
It was the very Messiah who was revealing some raw truth to woman living in a religiously cooked world when he told her that he was the one that the thirsty people in Samaria were looking for! This Messiah was Jesus the Christ, the one who knew how to tear down a barrier that didn’t belong where it was.
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)