“Woman at the Well” (detail), by Carl Heinrich Bloch, from the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace in Copenhagen
Some of Jesus’ most profound teachings had an audience of one, as John illustrates early in his gospel. Whether He was speaking with a ruler of the Jews or with a Samaritan woman, He focused on the individual, challenging them to broaden their perspective and to receive the transformational power He provided.
Here are some of the phrases from those conversations which are most meaningful to me:
“Ye Must Be Born Again”
Immediately after Nicodemus acknowledged that Jesus was “a teacher come from God,” Jesus responded with an admonition: Nicodemus must be born again. “Marvel not,” said Jesus, “that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
About 130 years earlier on the other side of the world, a young man experienced a transformation in his soul because of Jesus Christ. Immediately afterward, he heard the voice of the Lord say:
Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.Mosiah 27:25-26
We often associate this spiritual rebirth with baptism, and the covenants we make in conjunction with formal ordinances are an important part of the process. But equally important is the impact of His grace over time which we receive through the influence of His Spirit because of His Atonement. See the following blog post: Water, Spirit, and Blood.
We are all spirit sons and daughters of God. Additionally, as Alma testified, we become the sons and daughters of Jesus when we are spiritually reborn by His grace. Here’s a blog post on the topic: What Does It Mean to Become the Sons and Daughters of Christ?
“God So Loved the World”
Jesus explained to Nicodemus that His arrival in mortality was a manifestation of the love of God. “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world,” He clarified; “but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).
Even though we may benefit by visualizing Jesus as our advocate before an impartial judge, the fact is that our Father in Heaven doesn’t need to be convinced to love us. The Savior’s sacrifice exemplifies the depth of that love. See this blog post: Because of Thy Son.
The Samaritan Woman
Jesus’ disciples were shocked that He would even talk with the woman at the well. (See John 4:27.) So was she. (See John 4:9.) But this conversation was not arbitrary. As Elder Robert C. Gay has pointed out, Jesus traveled through Samaria intentionally in order to announce for the first time that He was the Messiah to a specific individual:
For this message, He chose not only an outcast group but also a woman—and not just any woman but a woman living in sin—someone considered at that time to be the least of the least. I believe Jesus did this so that each of us may always understand that His love is greater than our fears, our wounds, our addictions, our doubts, our temptations, our sins, our broken families, our depression and anxieties, our chronic illness, our poverty, our abuse, our despair, and our loneliness. He wants all to know there is nothing and no one He is unable to heal and deliver to enduring joy.“Taking upon Ourselves the Name of Jesus Christ,” General Conference, November 2018
Jesus told the Samaritan woman that if she knew who He was, she would have asked Him to give her living water. He told her that if she drank the water He provided, she would never thirst again (John 4:10-14).
Living water moves. It doesn’t sit still. The mysteries of the kingdom are not a stagnant knowledge base, received all at once and retained forever. Rather, they represent an ongoing flow of personal revelation. Here is a blog post about the significance of this symbolism: Living Water.
“In Spirit and in Truth”
Jesus told the Samaritan woman that the time was coming when people would worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). Amulek used the same phrase as he urged the Zoramites to worship God appropriately, wherever they might be (Alma 34:38).
As we participate in religious activities, we need to remember their purpose. A perfect prayer or scripture study session doesn’t consist of doing it the “right way,” but in drawing closer to our Heavenly Father and to our Savior. Here’s a blog post about worshipping in the proper frame of mind: The Deadness of the Law – 2 Nephi 25:27
Blog Posts February 6-12
Not to Condemn
When we see imperfections in ourselves or in others, we have two choices: We can condemn, or we can forgive. God sent Jesus Christ to save us, not to condemn us. We can follow His example by looking to the future instead of dwelling on the past.
Where It Listeth
Nicodemus was tentative and cautious. Jesus taught him that people who are born of the Spirit exercise faith. They don’t have to know everything before they are willing to do something. Like Nephi, they embrace uncertainty and move forward.
“He Must Needs Go Through Samaria”
Jesus had to travel through Samaria so He could talk with the woman at the well, not because there were no alternate routes. God places us in circumstances which allow us to bless individual people, and we need to act on those opportunities when they come
“We Have Heard Him Ourselves”
We can all be inspired by the testimonies of others, as the Samaritans in Sychar were inspired by the woman who had met Jesus. But ultimately, the goal is for us to gain our own personal testimonies by direct experience with Him, as they did.
“Whatsoever He Saith Unto You, Do It.”
Should you follow arbitrary instructions from a random person? Of course not. But you might follow seemingly arbitrary instructions from someone you trust. Mary was willing to believe in words that Jesus hadn’t yet spoken, because she trusted Him.
“In Spirit and in Truth”
Sacred times and places are important, and we benefit from treating them with reverence. But as Jesus taught the Samaritan woman, and as Alma and Amulek taught the Zoramites, the ultimate goal is communion with God.
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