"And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (Jn. 3:19). Some parade their evil deeds publicly by embracing and and even applauding sin, while others cloak their evil deeds under the guise of respectability and religion. Jesus reveals the sinfulness of both categories.
Nicodemus comes to Jesus under the cover of darkness, only to be exposed. Like most religious people, Nicodemus struggles to accept a guilty verdict-that his personal righteousness is simply self-love and evil. It is inconceivable that he, a Pharisee, a teacher, a deeply religious person, is outside of the kingdom of God. He sees in Jesus what he does not see in himself--something more-and he longs to know what that something is. Jesus knows what Nicodemus needs: he needs a spiritual birth. Jesus tells him so: "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again"" (Jn. 3:7).
Jesus uses two illustrations to teach Nicodemus about the spiritual birth-one from nature and the other from a familiar story in the Old Testament. He uses the wind to demonstrate the mystery of the spiritual birth and the bronze serpent to demonstrate the work of Christ in salvation and saving faith.
Nicodemus leaves the encounter with Jesus with a guilty verdict dangling over his head, and, "after these things, Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea" (3:22). What will Nicodemus do? Will he recognize Jesus not only as a good teacher, but as his only hope?
The Samaritan woman comes to the well in the middle of the day (other women would have come in the cool early morning hours) because her public sin has brought her shame and shunning. Jesus" request for water catches her off guard: "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?"(Jn. 4:9). Jesus offers her living water, along with a request, "Go, call your husband, and come here" (4:16). Light exposes the emptiness of her life, the serial marital relationships that have ended in cohabitation and shame. Guilty is the verdict. She acknowledges her guilt, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet" (4:19), and finds the Living water for which she longs.
No one can come to Christ who refuses to acknowledge personal guilt.
Both religious people and "sinners" are guilty before God. Salvation comes to those who welcome exposure, acknowledge their guilt, and come to Christ-"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (Jn. 3:17).
What do the conversations between Jesus and Nicodemus and Jesus and the Samaritan woman share in common? How do they differ?
What does Jesus see regarding Sychar and her citizens that the disciples miss? What does this reveal about human nature and even those on mission with Christ?
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