I'm trying to make sense out of the two different ways Jesus approaches two different people in John chapter 4. Jesus approached the woman at the well with a tone of conversation and engagement. But it would seem from the text that Jesus approached the royal official whose son was dying with a tone of dismissal and terse response.
Now, it is true that to both individuals he offered incredible, loving revelation. To one he offered eternal life and deeply healing spiritual and inner-personal restoration. To the other he offered an answer to prayer and awe-inspiring physical healing for his dying son. But he went about these interactions so differently.
The "woman at the well" was a Samaritan… a sect oppressed within Israel during that day… and the woman was an outcast among the Samaritans. And yet, Jesus traveled through the outcast land and stopped at an ancient well for a drink of water. At the well came this woman, full of dysfunctions. So Jesus initiated a conversation with her and then proactively kept her engaged in it. He spoke straight into her life, revealed her deep secrets, and taught her theology. He offered himself to her as the source of her salvation. Soon, she ran back to the town and told everyone about Jesus. The community was so deeply impacted by Jesus that they asked him to stay for two more days. Jesus accepted the invitation and the whole village believed in him. Jesus gave himself in relationship for an intentional period of time to these Samaritan's through his intentional encounter with the woman.
On the other extreme is the royal official. He probably was an assistant of some sort to "King" Herod Antipas, and he may or may not have been Jewish and he may or may not have been liked by Israel. We can't say. But we do read that when Jesus came into Cana (for a second time), where he had previously performed the miracle at the wedding, the royal official ran to greet him immediately. This time, the royal official initiated the conversation. In fact, he begged Jesus to come and heal his son, who was very ill and close to death. Instead of engaging in conversation with the man, however, Jesus dismisses him. "Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonder, you will never believe," Jesus said. But the royal official remained undeterred and repleaded his case: "Sir, come down before my child dies!" To this, Jesus simply responded, "You may go. Your son will live." The official returned home… a long journey. Along the way his servants ran to meet him with the good news that his son was okay. They figured out that his "fever" had left the same time the Jesus said, "Your son will live."
Why do you think Jesus approaches both of these individual's so differently? Maybe you'd like to offer me some insight before I speak on this Sunday evening?! 🙂