Relevant Passages John 2:23-4:42
Grace Is All-Inclusive. The two major incidents studied in last week’s lesson contrasted Jesus’ leisurely experience at a Jewish wedding with the intensity of his anger in cleansing the temple. This study in contrasts continues in this week’s lesson as John leads us into two private conversations:a night-time conversation with Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, and a noon-time meeting with a social outcast, the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus offers grace and hope to both.
- Inadequacy of signs. John frequently mentions that Jesus performed miracles to enable people to believe (cf. 2:11; 20:30-31); and John does not hesitate to say that is why he himself has recorded them in his Gospel. But John also stresses the point that signs are not adequate. In his gentle rebuke of Thomas, Jesus praises those who believe without seeing; and after the water-to-wine miracle and the cleansing of the temple, John says that “many believed because they saw the signs that he was doing.” Yet he goes on to say that Jesus “would not entrust himself to them” (2:23). Of what real value are miraculous signs? How is our 21st century situation in Western culture different from that of the 1st century?
- Candidates for salvation? Based on John’s narrative, was Nicodemus or the Samaritan woman more likely to be found in God’s kingdom? Note the following contrasts, many of which are suggested in the official Sabbath School study guide:
- Gender: male – female
- Social class: high-class insider, a Pharisee – low-class outsider
- Ethnicity: Jew – Samaritan
- Visibility: after dark – at noon
- Economic level: wealthy – poor
- Education: highly educated – probably illiterate
- Reputation: respected leader – despised adulterer
- Name recognition: well-remembered by name – anonymous
- Locale: from the holy city, Jerusalem – from the obscure village of Sychar
- Attention level: “surprised” Jesus by seeking him out – “surprised” and found by Jesus
- Attitude toward truth: open, but slow to accept – initial skepticism overcome by joy
- Nicodemus: You must be born again. Jesus makes it quite clear to the respected Pharisee that he must be born again. Yet Nicodemus was “doing” things right, even seeking out Jesus for personal instruction. Why did Jesus press him so hard? A tantalizing sentence in 1 John 2:29 actually states that anyone who is doing what is right “has been born of him.” Is it possible to be born again without even knowing it?
- Samaritan woman: living water, worshiping God in spirit and in truth. If Nicodemus seemed to resist the spiritual insights suggested by Jesus, the woman at the well quickly became enraptured by Jesus’ words and then shared them with her fellow villagers. Are their differing reactions determined in part by their differing social situations? How can we learn from these two experiences and reach all classes for Jesus?