Why did Jesus say we would be his witnesses in Samaria rather than someplace like Galilee? And why do we often act like he said Galilee rather than Samaria? Acts 1:8 reads, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
One way we look at this (and I'm not saying it's wrong) is that Jerusalem is our community or city; Judea is our state, Samaria is the nation, and the end of the earth is the other nations. But what's strange is the reality that the disciples weren't from Jerusalem and that wasn't even their home. They were mostly from Galilee. Yet, Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem. Why?
I believe there's another way to look at this mission plan.
Jerusalem was a place were spiritual discussions were the norm. There were already many people expecting spiritual things to happen. There was a spiritual infrastructure with the temple and all the other religious systems. In addition, it was the place everybody was traveling to for spiritual activity and festivals. There were already spiritually ready people when Acts 2 hit the scene. You could say that Jerusalem was low hanging fruit. And maybe that's why the Apostles struggled to leave and God had to bring on Acts 8:1 persecution. Jerusalem might have been the starting place so the gospel could get a foothold and establish a hub of operations.
Judea is the surrounding area, like a state, but it might have been more than that. It was the highways and byways. It was all the smaller communities that could easily be reached from the base of operations. The idea might have been to start with any receptive people in Jerusalem and start working out. Nonetheless, take some ground and get moving.
Next comes Samaria.
Samaria didn't have the best reputation in the Old Testament. Sure, it was a home and burial place for kings, but Amos rebuked Ahab for building a elaborate palace. Then Jezebel convinced her husband to make Samaria the epicenter for Ba'al worship. And if that wasn't bad enough, she had God's prophets killed there. In 2 Kings 6, the city is besieged and two women are fighting because they agreed to eat their babies, but after eating one of the babies the other women hid her baby. The city didn't fall that day, but eventually it did. The Assyrians end up exiling anyone of any significance, leaving a little more than 27,000 nobodies in Samaria. Then the imported other concurred countries. The people started inter-marrying and adopting false Gods. It was so bad, that when it was time to rebuild Jerusalem Ezra and Nehemiah wouldn't let the people of Samaria take part.
By the time of the New Testament, the strain between the returned Jews and the left-behind Samaria was so bad Jews had nothing to do with Samaria. They went the long way around to avoid traveling through there.
But Jesus had a heart for Samaria. He not only traveled through Samaria, he stopped and talked with a Samaritan woman at a well, even telling her he was the Christ (something he didn't often do with the Jews). He not only traveled through, he stayed there two more days. And remember when Jesus was sharing a story with the religious Pharisees about what it means to be a good neighbor? The goats in the story were religious Pharisees and the hero is the guy we call the Good Samaritan. Jesus even rebuked James and John for wanting to call down fire from heaven to burn up Samaria (see Luke 9:55-56).
Maybe our Samaria is the place our heart really doesn't want to see saved? Samaria is the place we avoid. It's not the sexy mission trip. Samaritans are those we look down on. And maybe we don't want them in our churches but they rarely come anyway. Samaria is on the "other side of the tracks."
Jesus could have said go to Galilee, but I believe he needed to say as you're taking the gospel out from the starting place, don't bypass Samaria. Go even where you don't want to.
The end of the earth is when you've circled the globe and there's no place left. Start where you can get a foothold and start working your way outward, never stoping.
I wonder if every local church in the world did this, not neglecting Samaria, what might happen? Share the gospel anywhere you can get something going, then keep working outward. Help other churches where they're at. When you go into a new place, get something going and keep working. But by all means, don't forget or bypass Samaria!