For the Sunday readings, our lectionary sets aside the Gospel of Matthew until Holy Week. On these remaining Sundays in Lent we turn to the Gospel of John. A pair of famous encounters from that gospel are the lessons for last Sunday (Nicodemus) and this coming Sunday (Samaritan woman).
The pattern of stories in John is different from the other gospels. John does not give a chronological account of the ministry of Jesus like the one that controls the normal flow of the church year. Instead, there are a series of encounters with this pattern: Jesus says or does something provocative often including one of those “I am” statements (…the light of the world…the bread from heaven…the resurrection and the life”). There is confusion about what Jesus means. Then comes a speech unfolding one of the mysteries of the person and work of Christ.
John 3 & 4, near the beginning of this gospel, set up a pair of contrasting and parallel scenes following the above pattern. John is introducing the ministry of Jesus, “The Word Become Flesh, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He continues the presentation by showing the reach of the gospel in all directions:
- First there is Nicodemus, a man, a leader of the synagogue, a secret follower who arranges a nighttime visit…leading to “For God so loved the world…”
- In a contrasting parallel there is an unnamed woman, a hated mixed-race heretic Samaritan visiting a well at noontime. She is avoiding all the upstanding women of the village who would have finished their errand in the cool morning and left for home. She is an inquirer. The visit with Jesus leads to “The water that I will give…This is the Messiah.”
These opening themes about the reach of the gospel will reach their climax when Nicodemus comes out of hiding at Jesus’ death and helps with a generous and lavish burial. And when some Greeks ask to see Jesus, he declares: “The Hour has come…and I when I am lifted up…will draw all people to myself.”
Truly a savior for the whole world!
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: