The Samaritan Woman and I have been hanging out together lately.  You might know her better as the Woman at the Well.  She’s the very one from whom Jesus asked for a cup of cool water, as He was making His way from Judea to Galilee.  There are so many nuggets of truth in this story, but there is something I discovered that has been working itself through me.

In order to understand it better, you need a little background.  Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. At. All. The nation of Israel had been split into northern and southern tribes due to the northern tribes’ refusal to accept Solomon’s son Rehoboam as king, and soon became known as “Israel” in the north and “Judah” in the south.  After many years of battle between the two, the northern kingdom finally collapsed under an Assyrian onslaught, and a large portion of the Hebrew population was taken into captivity.  When refugees from other Assyrian conquests were resettled into the area (Samaria), they began to intermarry with the surviving population. Later, the southern kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonian army and the Jews were deported as well.  Some seventy years following, the Jews were finally allowed to return to their land and begin rebuilding.  The Samaritans, which were now the descendants of the intermarriage of the northern tribes, tried to join in the rebuilding efforts, but were refused. The Jews considered them “unclean”, “mongrels”, “half-breeds” and so began a feud between the two peoples that lasted hundreds of years. It was during this time that the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman took place.
Now, when Jews were traveling from Judea to Galilee, the most straight-forward route was through Samaria.  However, because of this ongoing feud between the two peoples and the fact that Samaritans were considered unclean, Jews most often bypassed it, taking a long detour around Samaria, to the east, along the Jordan River.  The encounter, as recorded in John 4, starts out like this:
3When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.  4Now he had to go through Samaria.

I’ve always read this with the understanding that, because Samaria was smack in the middle of Judea and Galilee, He had no choice but to travel through there.  But, He DID have a choice.  I would almost be willing to bet the disciples argued with Him over going through that way, assuming that He would do what everyone else did, and take the detour to the east.  But He “HAD to go through Samaria.”  He CHOSE it, because He had a mission.
The KJV reads “and He must needs go through Samaria.”  The Greek for “must needs” is dei, meaning:
It is necessary, there is need of, it behooves, is right and proper…necessity established by the counsel and decree of God, especially by that purpose of His which relates to the salvation of men by the intervention of Christ and which is disclosed in the Old Testament prophecies. [i]

Christ didn’t just happen upon some Samaritan woman at a well, on His way to Galilee.  He chose to go there.  He wasn’t concerned with her being “unclean”.  He was concerned with her heart.  
There is a lot to learn, on many levels from this story.  But the thing I’m pondering today is the fact that we bypass so many people that seem “unclean” on the way to keeping our busy schedules.  We’re passing up the untidiness of the grief-stricken, the stench of the broken-hearted, the mess of the lost in order to stay “on-task” in our neat and orderly lives.  This was not the way of Christ.  If we are to go the way of the righteous, we have to be willing to take a detour and get our hands dirty, all the while remembering that someone was willing to do the same for us.  
We have to choose the unchosen.
[i] Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for dei (Strong’s 1163)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2008. 16 Aug 2008