Questions From Readers
When sending his twelve apostles out on a limited preaching tour, Jesus told them: “Do not go off into the road of the nations, and do not enter into a Samaritan city; but, instead, go continually to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 10:5, 6) That Jesus did not forbid all preaching to the Samaritans can be seen by his own words and actions. In one of his parables he showed that the Jews should consider the Samaritans as neighbors. (Luke 10:29-37) Once Christ healed ten men, one of whom was a Samaritan, and Jesus commended that man for being the only one of the ten who expressed gratitude. (Luke 17:11-19) Also, Jesus preached to a Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar and later also to others in that Samaritan city.—John 4:4-43.
Consequently, Jesus’ order at Matthew 10:5, 6 must be understood as a restriction that applied particularly to that time and occasion. By what Christ said about “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” it seems evident that he was emphasizing the importance of taking the message to the Jews first, giving them the first opportunity. So, on their preaching tour the apostles were to concentrate on the Jews, not attempting at this time to preach to all peoples and nations. Surely the six pairs of men would have more than enough to do during their relatively brief tour even with their territory restricted to the cities and villages of the Jews.—Mark 6:7.
The situation was quite different when Jesus said what he did as recorded at Acts 1:8. He was, in effect, giving his followers some parting instructions that indicated the worldwide preaching work to be accomplished. Just before ascending to heaven he said: “You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” And that is just the way it worked out. Due to persecution the Christian disciples were scattered, and as a result their message was preached in Samaria.—Acts 8:1-17.
It might be noted that this preaching to the Samaritans, with the result that many Samaritans were baptized and received holy spirit, took place prior to 36 C.E., when uncircumcised Gentiles (non-Jews) were for the first time accepted as believers. (Acts 10:34-48) This apparently was because the Samaritans had much more in common religiously with the Jews than did the Gentiles. The Samaritans accepted the first five books of the Bible (according to the “Samaritan Pentateuch”) and thus they looked forward to the coming of a prophet greater than Moses. (Deut. 18:18, 19; John 4:25) And though their form of worship was in many ways different from Judaism, still they claimed to be worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and observing the Law of Moses, including the circumcision requirement. Hence, they were in quite a different category from that in which the uncircumcised Gentiles were.