“He Must Needs Go Through Samaria”

One of Elder Robert C. Gay’s favorite scriptures is John 4:4, which says simply, “And he must needs go through Samaria.”

Jesus had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover (John 2:13). While there, He had met with Nicodemus, “a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1). Now it was time for Him and His disciples to return home to Galilee. It’s true that the most direct route from Jerusalem to Galilee passed through Samaria, but it’s also true that many Jews at the time took a longer route in order to avoid traveling through Samaria. Jeffrey P. García of Nyack College has identified three major routes between Galilee and Judea at that time: a direct route through Samaria (the white line on the map), a longer route which crossed the River Jordan to avoid Samaria (the red line), and an even longer route around Samaria to the west (the green line). (See Megan Sauter, “3 Pilgrimage Paths from Galilee to Jerusalem,” Biblical Archaeology Society website, 24 February 2022.)

Elder Gay explained, “Why do I love that scripture? Because Jesus did not need to go to Samaria. The Jews of His day despised the Samaritans and traveled a road around Samaria. But Jesus chose to go there to declare before all the world for the first time that He was the promised Messiah” (“Taking upon Ourselves the Name of Jesus Christ,” General Conference, November 2018).

In other words, Jesus did need to travel through Samaria, but not for the reason you think. It’s not because there were no other routes to Galilee. It’s because He needed to talk with the Samaritan woman at the well.

Lamoni’s father was so impressed with Ammon that he invited him to come to his kingdom and teach him (Alma 20:27). But Ammon didn’t come. Instead, his brother Aaron visited the king with several of their companions. When the king asked why Ammon had not come, Aaron explained, “The Spirit of the Lord has called him another way; he has gone to the land of Ishmael, to teach the people of Lamoni.” (Alma 22:4).

We don’t always know why God leads us to specific places, but it is almost always about people. Whatever logistical explanation there may be for our presence, we would be wise to look at the people around us and ask ourselves why God wants us to be with them specifically.

Elder David A. Bednar shared the following experience:

One day I was repairing the roof on our home. Because I had run out of nails and other materials, I went to a local store to purchase the required items. I was wearing my customary work clothes—casual pants and shoes, a well-worn T-shirt, and a baseball hat. Wanting to quickly return home and complete my project, I hurriedly entered the store and began looking for the things I needed. A man approached me as I was selecting my supplies.

He observed, “Elder Bednar, the disguise is not working.” We laughed, and then he inquired, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

I responded, “Well, that is why I am here.”

He replied quizzically, “What do you mean?” I said, “You are the reason I am here. I am doing repair work at my home, and I need a few things to finish the task. But I am not in this store simply to buy roofing nails. I am here because God knew we were going to meet each other in this store and that you had something about which you wanted to ask. Please go ahead and share with me your question.”

We talked in the aisle for about 15 minutes, and I tried to help him find the answer to his question. Was it merely a coincidence that I encountered this good man at the local store? Or was this episode divinely orchestrated by a loving Savior who knew and responded to the concerns of a faithful man?

One by One, Deseret Book, 2017, chapter 1

Today, I will trust God to lead me where I need to be, and I will remember that the most obvious explanation for why I’m there may not be the most important one. I will look for the people God places in my path, and I will take advantage of the opportunities He gives me to serve them.

2 thoughts on ““He Must Needs Go Through Samaria”

Add yours

  1. This is one of the most powerful messages I’ve read on your blog! Thank you for sharing. I have a tendency to focus on “the task at hand,” but I want to be more aware of the people around me. Thank you for the beautiful reminder!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: