...and now we move on to meet two people who don't become disciples: Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman.
(12) Conversations with the rich and the poor
Still following John’s gospel, Jesus goes on to have two interesting conversations, one with a Jew and one with a Samaritan. The first occurs near Jerusalem, probably at a camp by the River Jordan where Jesus (or just his followers) may have been baptizing people, just as John was. The second probably occurs on the road from Jerusalem to Galilee.
1. Before reading on, what comes to mind when you think of Nicodemus?
a. What sort of man/what sort of character do you imagine him to be?
b. What would your first question be if you met Jesus face to face?
2. Read John 3:1-2, 7:50-52, 19:38-39 Did you learn anything more about him?
a. Can he be called a follower of Jesus if he wasn’t actively following throughout Jesus’ ministry?
b. Are there times when we keep quiet about our faith?
c. Looking at the rest of Nicodemus’ story, is keeping quiet necessarily a bad thing?
3. Read John 3:3-5 How do we react when we hear something about our faith that feels wrong or counter-intuitive?
a. Does Jesus mind being asked questions? Does God mind when we ask questions?
4. Read John 3:7-8 Does this mean we have to use the phrase “born again” to be Christian?
5. Read John 3:9-17 Is the emphasis on proving Nicodemus wrong, proving Jesus right, or pointing to God’s love? Which matters more to you when you speak with unbelievers?
6. Read John 3:18-21 So… who is condemned, how and why?
7. Does the idea that this story takes place in a forest, near a place of baptism, at night, by a campfire, with the wind blowing through the trees, change your view of the conversation?
John is still baptizing people nearby, though he has already declared that Jesus is the one. Read John 3:25-26,30. How willing are we to decrease?
Then Jesus finally heads North to Galilee again, via Samaria.
1. Read John 4:1-3 Why might John think it important to point out that Jesus didn’t baptize? (Note, older translations say the Lord/Father knew; meanwhile the Spirit is given in baptism… Is John prefiguring the Trinity?)
2. Read John 4:4-6, Genesis 33:18-20 Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions associate the well with faith and Jacob. But the woman is going to draw ordinary water there, and Jesus still plans to drink. Is it okay to mix sacred and secular?
3. Read John 4:7-9 Who do we have no dealings with? Who would we be nervous of having dealings with? Why?
4. Read John 4:10-15. Does this read like a lecture, a theological discussion, or a strange conversation? Do we expect God to lecture us, or to converse with us?
5. Read John 4:16-18 How do you feel, knowing God knows all about you, sins and all? How do you feel, knowing Jesus chose to die for you, sins and all?
6. Read John 4:19-24. Jesus mentions the Spirit again, just as he did to Nicodemus, but he doesn’t mention baptism. How important is the Spirit in your worship? In your life?
7. Read John 4:25-26. Why might John choose to tell this story near the beginning of his Gospel?
a. Why might John have placed the stories of Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman so close together?
b. Which do you identify with more, Nicodemus or the Samaritan woman?