Today Jesus has two important salvific conversations with two very different types of people, showing that we are all equal in the eyes of the Lord. However, we are not equal to the Lord, as John the Baptist explains to his disciples.
First we meet Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews. Nicodemus sneaks away at night to seek answers from Jesus because he knows that Jesus is a Teacher from God. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again to see the kingdom of God. This statement confuses Nicodemus so Jesus explains that a person has to become a new creation through the belief in Him as Savior and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus says that in order for this salvation to be available, He must be lifted up on the cross like Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness; for whoever looked to the serpent in faith was saved (Numbers 21:9) just as whoever looks to Jesus Christ as their Savior shall be saved – “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Jesus’ words cut to the heart of Nicodemus and this is not the last we will hear from him. Nicodemus will defend Jesus against accusations from the Pharisees (John 7:50-51) and we will see his presence at Jesus’s burial (John 19:39).
“Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!’”
John’s disciples are concerned because the crowds are now starting to follow Jesus. John the Baptist explains that the whole point of his ministry is to point people to Jesus, the Son of God, and not to himself, a mere man who is also in need of a Savior – “He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth… The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Then Jesus has another important salvific discussion with a Samaritan woman. Their exchange is the longest recorded conversation in the entire New Testament. Remember that the Samaritans date back to when Northern Israel was invaded by the Assyrians. The Jews that intermarried with the Assyrians became known as the Samaritans and they are greatly despised by the Jews who refer to them as half breeds. Any respectable Jew would have nothing to do with a Samaritan. However, Jesus is not influenced by any man made barriers or prejudices. Jesus sees all people as His Father sees all people; broken and in desperate need of a Savior.
So Jesus, weary from His journey, sits at Jacob’s well in Samaria when a shameful woman comes to the well in the middle of a hot day (unlike the time the other ladies would get water). The woman is surprised that Jesus, being a Jewish male, would speak to a “disgusting” Samaritan woman. She is even more surprised that Jesus knows she had been married five times and is currently living with a man out of wedlock.
Jesus tells her about the living water that He offers which is different from the water at the well. The water that Jesus offers will result in everlasting life. The Samaritan woman says she knows the Messiah is coming and Jesus responds, “I who speak to you am He.” So she drops her water pot and runs to town saying, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”
In the meantime, the disciples return to Jesus with some food but Jesus explains that His food is to do the will of His Father. He tells His disciples to lift their eyes and look at the people coming toward them because of the testimony of one lady – “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”
“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified.” Then the Samaritans urge Jesus to stay with them, so He stays for two days and many more believed in Jesus as the Savior of the world when they personally encountered Him.
We end the reading on a sad note. John the Baptist is thrown into prison for rebuking Herod for marrying his brother’s wife.
Tomorrow Jesus’s ministry goes into full swing. Keep reading.
(John 3:1-4:45, Luke 3:19-20)