Two stories leading to the same conclusion.
The conclusion is that Jesus is the source of all life, the Messiah, the one that invites us to be ‘born again.’ The one who invites us to feed off him as the Living Water, the one who wants to invite all, yes all of us, to worship in ‘spirit and truth.’
The two stories are of course the account of Nicodemus that we heard last week and, today’s gospel reading in which we hear the story of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Nicodemus comes to meet Jesus under the cover of night, because he dare not, at this early stage of his journey risk being seen with Jesus in broad day light. The Samaritan woman has no choice but to meet Jesus in the full glare of the midday sun. Nicodemus is a man of status, the Samaritan woman has no status; she is a Samaritan and a woman and, this is why she can only go to the well at the hottest part of the day. She literally could not go in the cool of the early morning or late afternoon. She knows no shade, she is scorched by life.
But, the amazing thing is that she has the same sort of conversation as Nicodemus, who is challenged to step out into the glare of the midday sun, and receives the same message: Jesus is indeed the messiah. Jesus, to the absolute astonishment of those who are journeying with him shows absolute no favouritism.
As John records:
‘Then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman.’
Put the story of Nicodemus next to the story of the Samaritan Women at the well and you have a complete theology of inclusivity. Jesus wants to affirm, re-orientate and convert all. It matters not a jot to Jesus what our ethnic, social or economic status is because what he is interested in is the state of our hearts.
Jesus is also revealed through these two stories as being entirely capable of seeing into our hearts and recognising that which prevents us from being fully human. He knows that Nicodemus is held back by the strictures of Pharisaic religion. He knows that the Samaritan woman has relationship issues. And, what he says to both parties is ‘look to me; it is your relationship with me that counts because as you have diagnosed for yourselves I am the Messiah.’
So here is a Lent challenge: to what extent are you prepared to stand in front of Jesus in all your vulnerability and let him address what it is that gets between you and Him? It is really important that we do this, not so that we become holier than thou, but because it is the only way through which the fullness of our humanity can be affirmed.
And having done this another challenge is to accept that God is perfectly content to work trough all manner of folk, as we have seen God shows no favouritism. Do we show favouritism? Are we more likely to favour the Nicodemus type figures: well-educated and of reasonable social standing? Or are we like Jesus ready to accept that God is perfectly content to work through those who society regards as lesser, those who exist on the margins, people like the Samaritan women at the well. The scandal of the gospel is that Jesus seeks to convert, affirm and work through all manner of folk.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown