As we rapidly approach Easter, I found two great posts on the last two Sundays' readings at The Sacred Page. Loads of details I didn't know about the context of each one.
For last Sunday (with the mud and the blind man).
Two Sundays ago (the woman at the well, which is one of my favorites)
But the woman’s personal history is an icon of the history of her people. She is a woman of Samaria, after all. The Samaritans were mixed descendants of the poor people of Northern Israel (left behind by the Assyrians in 722BC) and five foreign nations brought in by their conquerors, with whom the Israelites intermarried! This intermarriage was not merely physical, but also spiritual, as they worshiped the foreign pagan gods. (See 2 Kings 17, esp. vv. 24-34. Keep in mind that the author of 2 Kings downplays the role of the Israelites left in the land, whose presence we know about from other sources).
Then, after Judeans returned to Jerusalem in the late 500s BC, the northern Samaritans bit by bit gave up the worship of other deities and returned to worshiping YHWH God of Israel, but they did not do it according to the covenant with David, whereby Jerusalem was the place of worship (see Psalm 132). They built their own temple in Gerizim (mentioned in John 4), and tried to be in relationship with God without following the proper form of the covenant. What do we call it today when people live together, but are not in proper covenant relationship? See the connection with John 4:18?