Text: John 3 and 4
Convinced that Jesus is a great teacher, but unsure of the implications of his teachings, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, secretly visits Jesus and they discuss the kingdom of God. Jesus explains the need for a new spiritual birth and beginning in order to enter the kingdom since people’s deeds are darkness. Humanity stands condemned for their unbelief but those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God will gain salvation and eternal life, just as those who looked at the snake on the pole in Moses’ day were healed.
John the Baptist’s disciples express their concern to him that Jesus is baptizing and the people are more drawn to him than John. Using a metaphor, John replies that he is only the attending friend, but Jesus is the bridegroom. John says Jesus must increase but he must decrease. He affirms that whoever believes Jesus is the Son of God will have eternal life but those who reject him will suffer God’s wrath.
Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well and discusses with her the availability of “living water” which becomes a spring inside a person, welling up to eternal life. When she expresses her desire for this water, Jesus reveals that he knows her story, that she has had five husbands and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. The woman recognizes Jesus is a prophet and Jesus tells her plainly that he is the Messiah and that the time has come for true worshipers to worship in spirit and truth.
The disciples are concerned about Jesus’ physical nourishment but Jesus assures them his food is to do the will of “him who sent me”. He invites the disciples to open their eyes and see the harvest for eternal life. They stay in the town of the Samaritan woman 2 days and many people testify their belief that Jesus is the “Saviour of the world”.
In the same place where he turned water into wine, a royal official comes to Jesus to beg him to heal his son. Jesus says the son will live and sent the official on his way home instead of going with him. His servants meet him on the way and confirm that indeed his son was healed at the same hour Jesus said he would live. John records this is the second sign Jesus performed.
These accounts recorded in John’s gospel show how people personally wrestled with the identity of who Jesus was. Once they encountered him, they had to decide for themselves whether they believed he was the Messiah or not. They could not remain neutral on the subject and this decision would have a significant implication for their lives.
For Nicodemus the struggle was that he, as a Pharisee, would have to lay down his own sense of self-righteousness and recognize his personal darkness and need for a Saviour, his need for a new beginning that relied on the Messiah’s righteousness and not his own.
John the Baptist recognized Jesus was the Messiah and that this truth meant he would need to step aside humbly so that Jesus’ fame and influence could increase. John’s disciples had a hard time with this.
For the Samaritan woman, once Jesus revealed his identity to her, her belief that he was the Messiah made it impossible for her to keep quiet. She had to tell others about her experience of encountering Jesus and this excitement sparked the belief of many other Samaritans in her town.
The royal official whose son was deathly ill had to go back home alone, taking Jesus at his word that his son would live. When his faith was confirmed and he learned his son was healed, he and all his household believed.
We can recognize through these chapters that it is our personal experience and encounter of Jesus that leads to a decisive and saving understanding of who he is. Think about when you first believed In Jesus. How did you experience and encounter him and what did he reveal to you personally about his identity? If you haven’t encountered Jesus personally recently, you can always invite him to reveal himself to you in a fresh way. It is a prayer he loves to answer!
Prayer: Lord, thank you that you want me to know you in a personal way. Reveal yourself to me afresh and give me the power to respond to your salvation call with the same enthusiasm as the Samaritan woman. Help me to bring my wrestling questions to you like Nicodemus. As you did for the royal official, confirm the faith I put in you with testimonies of healing, and like John the Baptist, let me humbly submit to you so that your presence will increase in my life.
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.