In 2006 I wrote a seven day devotional series — Conversations with Jesus — that was subsequently published in Fruit of the Vine, a Barclay Press Publication. The series highlighted Jesus’ conversations with Nathaniel (I Saw You), Nicodemus (I Tell You the Truth), The Samaritan Woman (I Who Speak to You Am He), The Paralytic (Do You Want to Get Well?), The Leper (I Am Willing), and Thomas (Blessed Are Those). To this day my favorite part of the series has remained to be Nicodemus and The Samaritan Woman. What follows is a portion of both.
Nicodemus -- "I Tell You the Truth" (John 3:1-15; Deuteronomy 18:15, 18)
Why did Nicodemus come at night?
Nobody knows for sure, but the most important thing for us to understand is that... he came.
Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus?
He came because of miraculous signs; however, he still failed to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah. Nicodemus was a well educated religious leader of Israel, and at the very least he should have recognized fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy: "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him." ~ (Deuteronomy 18:15)
The correlation of Jesus’ words, "I tell you the truth," with the ancient words of Moses, "You must listen to him," should have spoken volumes to Nicodemus, but the consequences of unbelief had deafened him. Nicodemus failed to realize that he must let go of his dependence upon Moses (the law) and enter into a personal relationship with Jesus (eternal life). Thus, instead of responding with understanding and action, Nicodemus remained confused and noncommittal. Even though the narrative doesn’t clearly state that Nicodemus received God's gift of salvation, tradition holds that he did. A hint of softening near the end of the Gospel offers valuable insight not only into Nicodemus's heart, but also into our own. The Lord offers everyone an opportunity to hear the truth; how we respond remains our choice.
Samaritan Woman -- "I Who Speak To You Am He" (John 4:7-28)
Nicodemus and the woman at the well lived at opposite ends of the cultural spectrum. He, a Pharisee and respected member of the Jewish ruling council, most likely would never cross paths with such a woman. She, an uneducated, Samaritan woman knew rejection all too well, and no man, especially a Pharisee of good reputation would dare come near her.
The differences between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman far exceeded social and cultural status. Remember, Nicodemus sought Jesus under the cover of darkness, and though he was highly educated, when their conversation had ended he remained confused and noncommittal. In contrast, Jesus intentionally waited by the well for the Samaritan woman to arrive. He knew she had grown accustomed to rejection, and though most people recoiled from her presence, Jesus purposely drew near to her. Thus, a forbidden conversation in man's eyes soon lifted this shamed woman to a new understanding of God. She knew about Israel's promised Messiah, and at this pivotal moment in her life, the Samaritan woman received divine revelation. Jesus revealed his true identity... "I who speak to you am He." Unlike Nicodemus, the woman responded with faith and action.
At the time I wrote these devotionals I was intrigued by the comparison between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman; not only by the contrast in their response, but also that Jesus chose to reveal his true identity to a “rejected” woman. These passages in John have always been on my list of favorites. I have listened to sermons, read devotionals, done bible studies and word studies; however, a few weeks ago I found something new. Don't you just love it when that happens?
Yes, Jesus and the Samaritan woman conversed about many things. There was back-and-forth about thirst and the spring of water that wells up into eternal life. They spoke about personal relationships, places of worship and true worship. Jesus even revealed to her that He is the promised Messiah. But when the Samaritan woman left her water jar and ran into town and witnessed to the very same people she was avoiding... she didn't say, "Come see a man who told me about a spring of water that leads to eternal life." She didn't recant their discussion about places of worship and true worship. She didn't tell them about his true identity. On the contrary she said, "Come see a man who told me everything I ever did!"
The Samaritan woman responded with faith and action because of her conversation with Jesus, but the thing that impacted her most was that Jesus had gotten personal with her. Jesus knew everything about her, but he still revealed truth to her. We can learn a lot from the Samaritan woman, but I especially pray that we will grasp the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus.
We may shy away from it, but Jesus definitely wants to get personal. Remember this... you are loved, and you are always in my prayers.