One of the things I love about Jesus is he doesn’t take sides – he is the side. All groups, tribes, nations belong to him. It’s either his side, or the need to get on his side. In our pluralistic and relativistic culture, this can be off putting. It sounds so exclusive, so holier-than-thou. However, if we can overcome our cultural influence and see Jesus for who he is, we quickly discover his profound love, grace, compassion, and yearning for us.
In chapters three and four in the Gospel of John, he describes three encounters Jesus has. One was with a leading teacher of Israel, Nicodemus. Another, was with a Samaritan woman of ill-repute. And another was with a gentile (a non-Jew).
Nicodemus was a well respected teacher of Israel. He had a top-notch religious education. He knew Jesus had no formal rabbinic training, but he saw something in him. He knew Jesus was a teacher sent from God. However, Nicodemus struggled to see what it all meant – he didn’t believe. Jesus, drove him deeper with scripture they both would have known by heart. Jesus then pointed to himself (the Son of Man), as the Savior of the world. Despite the heated battles Jesus had with the religious elite, he loved Nicodemus, and was trying to help him to see – to come over to his side.
The woman at the well was on the wrong side of everything. She was a Samaritan, a woman, 5-time divorced, poor, and she had a questionable reputation. Yet, she meets Jesus and her life is transformed. She felt his compassion and grace, and was amazed at his prophetic insight into her life. Jesus was able to openly reveal who he really was – the Messiah – the Savior of the world. Despite her social standing, Jesus loved her, and brought her to himself.
The gentile was likely a Roman Centurion. Centurions were blue-collar, battled-hardened, order-following, fighting machines. He had heard of Jesus’ reputation for healing. His son was ill so he asked Jesus to come and heal him. Jesus, perhaps frustrated by the gathering crowds seeking only miracles rather than understand the Kingdom, reminded them all of their lack of faith by seeking only miracles and signs. Despite this, and perhaps because of this, Jesus grants the request with a word. Jesus said, “Go; your son will live.” Despite the soldier’s non-Jewish roots, Jesus restored his son. The Centurion and his whole family came to believe in Jesus.
So in these three encounters, we have Jesus engaging the upper class (Nicodemus), the lower class (the Samaritan women), and the middle class (the Centurion). Why’s Jesus doing this? What’s the point? What’s Jesus after?
For Jesus there are no sides. It’s only his side. Hence, he’s after everyone in the world.
Thanks for reading,