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?! 🙂
it is interesting how both the woman and the official were both desperate, just in different ways…
Thank you for picking up a wonderful insight in this passage, that I have not seen before. Truly it is amazing that the God of the Universe, our Creator, deals with us as the unique individuals that He created. What an example in this passage of how God comes and meets each of us in our time of need, or doubt, or circumstances in a unique way that will lead us to faith. Instead of trying to shape square pegs and octagon pegs into round holes, Christ spoke to the woman, to his disciples, and to the royal official, knowing their hearts, in a manner appropriate to where they were at.
What a glorious message of hope Christ offers the world. Come unto me, I know you, I understand you and your circumstances right now, and I will meet you in a way that is as unique as who I created you to be. Christ comes to cut through our preconceived notions of who He is, and to reveal his grace, his holiness, and his majesty. And yet the purpose of Christ’s encounters with individuals is always the same – to lead them to faith, to transform them into his image.
If we look throughout the Bible – Abraham, Elijah, David, Moses we see God dealing with individuals in individual ways, unique to the circumstances that they find themselves in.
What a challenge to the church today – do we see people as unique individuals and adapt our styles, as Christ did to deal with a person in a unique way that addresses their unique circumstances, and yet never compromising Christ’s holiness? How often do we fall short of this, and apply a one size fits all mentality, or try to shape square pegs into round pegs so we can fit them into our view of what a christian is?
Ken – You have an exciting message to share this Sunday!