What is so remarkable about Acts 8:4-16 is the fact that Philip and others shared the good news so enthusiastically with the Samaritans. The Samaritans and Jews had a long history of enmity. We know from John 4:9 that Jews and Samaritans did not associate with each other; John Stott says, ‘The hostility between Jews and Samaritans had lasted a thousand years. It began with the break-up of the monarchy in the tenth century B.C. when ten tribes defected, making Samaria their capital, and only 2 tribes remained loyal to Jerusalem. It became steadily worse when Samaria was captured by Assyria in 722 B.C.; thousands of its inhabitants were deported, and the country was re-populated by foreigners. In the 6th century B.C., when the Jews returned to their land, they refused the help of the Samaritans in the rebuilding of the temple. Not till the 4th century B.C. did the Samaritan schism harden, however, with the building of their rival temple on Mount Gerizim and their repudiation of all Old Testament Scriptures except the Pentateuch. The Samaritans were despised by the Jews as hybrids in both race and religion, as both heretics and schismatics.’
We might find it hard to understand the hostility between these two groups or what divided them so much, but in our modern times, there still exists such hostility. Our ‘Samaritans’ might be people of a different nationality or religion or beliefs, but we can be equally hostile to sharing the good news with these people and can be reluctant to take the gospel outside our comfort zone.
Nonetheless, Paul reminds us that Christ ‘has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility’ (Eph 2:14) and that in Christ, ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female.’ (Gal 3:28) God wants us to share the good news with everyone, even those for whom we have no natural affinity. ‘Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.’ (2 Cor 5:14) There are no outsiders now.