Introduction: John 3:16 is one of the most famous verses in the
Bible. It is an offer of eternal life to “whoever” believes in
Jesus. This week our study of John continues with the stories of two
people who crossed Jesus’ path. Proving the truth of “whoever,” one
who comes to Jesus is a rich, exalted Pharisee named Nicodemus. The
other who comes to Jesus is poor, despised Samaritan woman. Let’s
jump into our study and find out how Jesus approaches these two!

  1. The Nicodemus Visit

    1. Read John 3:1. What does this tell you about the social
      status of Nicodemus? (He was a prominent fellow. A
      religious and political leader.)

    2. Read John 3:2. Nicodemus says “nice things” about Jesus,
      but does not reveal why he wants to meet. Why do you think
      Nicodemus wanted to have a private meeting with Jesus?

      1. Read John 2:23. Then consider our discussion last
        week about Jesus driving out the thieving
        “businessmen” from the temple. Add these two facts
        and then put yourself in the place of Nicodemus. Does
        this give you a different view about why Nicodemus
        would have been interested in talking to Jesus? (John
        3:2 confirms that Nicodemus was aware of the miracles
        spoken of in John 2:23. Just like every other sincere
        Jew, Nicodemus was also looking for the Messiah. I
        recall discovering a clue in Josephus’ writings that
        the House of Nicodemus was one of extraordinary
        wealth. Since Nicodemus did not need money, perhaps
        he was also offended by the money-grubbing crooks in
        the temple and he privately cheered Jesus.)

      2. Nicodemus came at night to see Jesus. What does that
        suggest to you? (He wanted to know more about Jesus.
        It would be smart for Nicodemus to avoid being
        publicly associated with this “trouble-maker/possible-Messiah” until he could learn more. Of
        course, considering the crowds around Jesus, coming
        at night allowed him to be able to speak privately
        with Jesus. It just made good sense all the way

      3. Should Jesus have been insulted or complimented by
        Nicodemus opening line ( John 3:2)? (This is a “damned
        by faint praise” problem. Nicodemus meant it as a
        compliment. But, it is a “compliment” for a prophet,
        not the Messiah.)

    3. Read John 3:3. Wait a minute! This verse starts out, “In
      reply Jesus declared.” How is this statement a reply to
      Nicodemus’ statement Jesus was from God?

      1. Step back from this just a moment. What reasons did
        you decide Nicodemus came to see Jesus? Did he show
        up to tell Jesus “we know you are a teacher from
        God?” (No. I doubt that handing out compliments to
        people he did not know was very high on Nicodemus’
        list of priorities. Nicodemus wanted to find out if
        Jesus was the Messiah. If Jesus was merely a
        prophet, Nicodemus was still not wasting his time.)

      2. Now, let me ask again, is Jesus’ statement in verse 3
        a “reply?” (Yes. Jesus is “cutting to the chase.” He
        knows Nicodemus is there to find out more about the
        kingdom of God. Jesus goes straight to the point by
        saying “You are not part of the Kingdom of God unless
        you are “born again.” No need for us to be discussing
        the finer points of the Kingdom if you are not part
        of it.” See, E.G. White, Desire of Ages, p. 171.)

    1. Let’s continue and add verse 4 to John 3:3. Put yourself
      in Nicodemus’ place again. Would you be insulted by Jesus’
      reply? (Irritated, if not insulted. Certainly, the
      conversation is not going the right way. You are a very
      important person. Jesus should be delighted to have a
      conference with you. Instead, Jesus seems to be
      questioning your salvation.)

      1. Do you think Nicodemus is serious in his question?
        (It is so obvious that a person could not literally
        be born again. I think Nicodemus is being defensive.
        According to several commentaries, Nicodemus would
        have understood the need for a “new birth” for
        Gentiles who wanted to be converted to Judaism, but
        it would not make any sense for Jews. The suggestion
        would be particularly inappropriate for an important
        person like him.)

    2. Read John 3:5. Jesus now makes plain what He means by
      being “born again.” What is it? (To be “born of water and
      the Spirit.”)

      1. Do you think Nicodemus understood what Jesus was
        saying? (Read John 4:1-2. Since Nicodemus had been
        keeping up with Jesus’ miracles, he surely kept up
        with the reports of Jesus’ conversions. My bet is
        that Nicodemus knew that being “born of water” meant

    3. Read John 3:6. Would Nicodemus want to be baptized? (No.
      This would seem to be a huge admission he was unworthy. He
      was a religious leader, not part of the rabble. His proud
      heart would resist this. This is why “flesh gives birth to
      flesh.” Human hearts naturally resist the gospel.)

    4. Those of you who have been following the GoBible lessons
      know that I love to look at the logic of the Bible. I ask
      you to put yourself in the story, consider what is being
      said and analyze it in terms of human nature and logic.
      Will that approach convert the heart? (All the logic in
      the world and all the insight into human behavior, will
      simply not convert the heart. It is all “flesh.” The
      essential ingredient is the Holy Spirit.)

      1. Why not ask the Holy Spirit, right now, to come into
        your heart so that you view God’s word not simply
        with your brain, but also with His Spirit?

    5. Read John 3:7. What does this tell us about the way
      Nicodemus was looking at the moment? (He must have looked
      shocked, or Jesus would not have commented on his

    6. Read John 3:8. Is the Holy Spirit logical? (In God’s great
      Creation we see order. Therefore, I’m reluctant to say
      that part of the Godhead is not logical. However, this
      text at least says the Holy Spirit is not predictable by
      humans. The Holy Spirit does what it wants, humans can
      sense the Spirit’s presence, but they cannot tell if the
      Spirit is coming or going.)

      1. Will a particular style of worship encourage the
        Spirit to fall on people? (I wish I could say, “yes.”
        I have definite views on worship. Services that are
        dry, boring and devoid of praise irritate me.
        However, the plain teaching of this verse is that
        being “born of the Spirit” cannot be tied to a
        certain type of worship because humans cannot predict
        the Spirit.)

    7. Read John 3:9-10. Can you sympathize with Nicodemus? He
      wants to know why logic and obedience are insufficient!

      1. Israel’s teacher did not understand this idea that
        being “born again” involves baptism and
        regeneration(rebirth)by the Holy Spirit. Do you
        understand this? (Simply knowing the Bible and
        following the rules is not enough. It is the Holy
        Spirit that brings us to repentance. Forgiveness
        comes from the unmerited grace of God. We cannot earn
        these things. Pride is a barrier to accepting these

    8. Read John 3:14-16. Why would Jesus compare Himself to a
      snake – the first symbol of evil (see Genesis 3)? Except
      for the “lifting up” analogy to the cross, doesn’t this
      comparison seem all wrong? (Just like the people needed to
      look at the serpent, so we need to face our sins. In Luke
      13:3 Jesus tells us that unless we repent we will perish.
      If you consider the context of Luke 13:3 you will find
      that Jesus says “don’t consider others suffered, instead
      of you, because they were more sinful.” We all must
      repent. We all must come face to face with our sins and
      acknowledge them – even valued, honored religious leaders
      like Nicodmus.)

  1. The Visit at the Well

    1. Read John 4:4-6. Let me give you a little background
      here. The most direct way for Jesus to go back to Galilee
      is to travel through Samaria. He has been doing that, it
      is noon and the disciples have gone off to buy food (John
      4:8). Jesus is tired. He sits down at a historic well to

      1. What kind of relationship did the Samaritans have
        with the Jews? (It was pretty bad. The Jews thought
        the Samaritans were inferior and the Samaritans had
        the kind of reaction you would expect.)

    1. Read John 4:7&9. What kind of an attitude do you sense in
      this specific Samaritan woman?

      1. Is she justified in her attitude? (It is about what I
        would expect.)

    2. Read John 4:10-12. What kind of an attitude do we see now
      with this woman? (It is not getting any better. She is
      getting annoyed with this “uppity” Jew.)

      1. How would you compare her attitude towards Jesus with
        the attitude of Nicodemus when he said “How can a man
        be born [again] when he is old?” ( John 3:3) (I think
        they sound very similar. They both seem a little
        irritated and they are uncertain what Jesus is
        telling them.)

    3. Let’s skip down and read John 4:19. Who does this sound
      like? (Again, this is very much what Nicodemus said. It
      reminds me of an old movie I saw where people keep saying
      to the action hero “I thought you’d be taller.” Jesus is
      the Messiah and people keep calling Him a mere prophet.)

    4. Read John 4:25-26. What truth is Jesus sharing with this
      Samaritan woman?

      1. Is this the same truth Jesus shared with Nicodemus?

    5. Do you remember that we started our study of John by
      saying that he wanted to “fill in the gaps” of the other
      gospels. By putting the story of the discussion with
      Nicodemus back to back with the story of the discussion
      with the Samaritan woman, what lesson do you think John is
      trying to teach us? (John takes us from the highest,
      richest, smartest, most scholarly and powerful segment of
      Jewish society to the poorest, least scholarly, least
      powerful segment of Samaritan society. Jesus makes the
      same approach to each. He truly is blind to class, race
      and intelligence. He desires all to have eternal life.

    6. Friend, how about you? You are not “too” anything to be
      beyond the love and care of Jesus. He calls you to
      acknowledge Him today, not as a prophet, but as your
      Messiah. Face your sins, repent, and turn to Him for life

  1. Next week: The Struggle to Be Real.