The Samaritans were despised because of their intermarriages with their Assyrian conquerors, their merging of religious beliefs and their sacred choice of worshiping at Mount Gerizim rather than Jerusalem. To the Jews the Samaritans were impure in their religious worship and were half-breeds from intermarriage.
Later when the Temple at Jerusalem was being rebuilt, the Samaritans offered to help, but their offer was rejected. As a result they not only tried to prevent the rebuilding of the temple and the city walls, but in the time of Nehemiah, built a temple themselves on Mount Gerizim near Shechem.
These disputes resulted in further hostile relations between the Samaritans and the Jews. The Jews, for example, would not allow the Samaritans to sacrifice in the Temple at Jerusalem and considered marriages between Samaritans and Jews illegal. Also because of the fact that the Samaritans were considered “half Jews” and “a mixed race”, many conflicts existed between the Jews and the Samaritans during the time of Jesus.
Jesus stepped into this conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans and, in his own inimitable way, reframed this conflict in fascinating ways. Jesus healed 10 lepers, but only one of the ten returned to Jesus to express his gratefulness. Here it is: Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. (Luke 17:16)
Jesus told one of his most well known stories about a man who was left injured by robbers at the side of the road. A priest and a Levite saw the man in his plight and walked by him on the other side of the road. Then Jesus said, “But a Samaritan” was walking by, stopped, bandaged the man up and took him to an inn, where he paid for getting him back on his feet. (Luke 10:30-35) There is also a great passage in Acts, where Philip shared the message of Jesus and the Kingdom with the Samaritans and he was positively received. (Acts 8)
Jesus was and is delighted in drawing people together, especially those who have great conflict or disgust or fear of one another. He is still doing this healing work today. Let me ask you this: Who are the Samaritans in your life? Muslims, Jews, Whites, Blacks, homosexuals, alcoholics, communists, capitalists, wealthy corporate executives, poor people panhandling? Just keep this in mind. Jesus unites; everything else divides! You get to choose whether to go with Jesus or everyone else.