What if John chapters 3 & 4 are two halves of a whole?
Let’s consider: No where else in John’s gospel does Jesus sit down for these one-on-one interviews, and here we get two of them back-to-back. John portrays to us a Jesus (“the Word”) who talks. He’s a Jesus who talks with people. Conversations mean relationship is happening.
So if the scene with Nicodemus is one half, how does this scene with a Samaritan woman represent the other half?
Again, let’s pay attention to the details, see where these dialogue partners are similar and different.
One is a man; one is a woman.
Nicodemus is given a name; the Samaritan woman remains anonymous to us.
One conversation is at night; one in broad daylight.
One in private; one in a public place.
One initiates with Jesus; to the other, Jesus breaks the ice.
Jesus speaks in symbols and metaphors and both initially misunderstand him.
That a religious leader like Nicodemus wants to have a theological discussion with Jesus shouldn’t surprise us much.
But this story—this is scandalous. Jesus crosses every cultural taboo of race and gender. Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans. Men didn’t engage women in theological discussion. And rabbis certainly did not ask for favors from a woman who had had five “husbands.”
A Pharisee and a Samaritan woman come from opposite extremes of cultural acceptability.
And the result? This woman is visibly affected. Many in the town believe in Jesus. Jesus stays in the town for two days.
We don’t know yet what happens to Nicodemus. The woman changes her community. That’s a big difference.
Makes me wonder if I walk away from my encounters with Jesus informed like Nicodemus, or transformed like the Samaritan woman.
Regardless, what if grace is so big that Jesus is for every Nicodemus who’s an insider and every Samaritan woman outside looking in?
What about you? What do you see?