Are we Nichodemus or the Samaritan woman?

by May Tam
Third Sunday of Lent

Exodus 17:3-7

Romans 5:1-2, 5-8

John 4:5-15, 19B-26, 39A, 40-42

I would like to pair today's Gospel reading with the conversation of Jesus and Nicodemus in John chapter 3 verse 2 to 21. Apart from being the longest one-on-one talks with Jesus in the New Testament, these two passages also display very interesting similarities and differences.

Nichodemus is a man, highly respected both as a member of the Sanhedrin and morally as a teacher of the law. In sharp contrast, the woman is a Samaritan with no name and is living an indecent life. Nichodemus initiates his visit to Jesus at night whereas it is Jesus who engages the woman in dialogue in broad daylight. Nichodemus' response is one with uncertainty, misunderstanding and confusion. Being a religious and political insider, Nichodemus is unable to move beyond the confines of the religious system. The woman, an outsider both ethnically and religiously, likewise starts with uncertainty but moves forward and ends up not only believing Jesus but becoming His witness enthusiastically.

Perhaps we can ask ourselves: are we Nichodemus or the Samaritan woman? As Nichodemus, are we contented with our doctrinal constructs but too prudent to invite others to hear them? Is our well acquired religious knowledge making us complacent rather than active in our faith? Are we too cautious of others' reactions that we dare not give testimonies for our faith? As the Samaritan woman, do we let Jesus' words lead us and take root in us? Is our faith growing each time when we encounter God's revelation to us? Do we willingly and openly share our faith experience with others?

Dear friends, we do not need to be another Nichodemus, that is, we do not have to feel confident, secure and knowledgeable enough before we invite others to “come and see” (Jn 4:29). Faith is not about having all the answers, but about what and who we believe. Like the Samaritan woman, she was not truly certain that Jesus was the Christ (Jn 4:29), but that did not deter her from going into the city and saying only what she knew from her own experience. Her testimony compelled others to come and see Jesus for themselves and thus brought a good harvest to Him. It is our generosity to share, our courage to speak and our good will to accomplish that allows God's grace to work, for “all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).