Here are my modern day versions of the stories of Nicodemus (Nick) in John 3 and the Samaritan woman (Sam) in John 4. Perhaps you will recognize people that you know in these descriptions. Then go back and read John 3 and 4 again to see how Jesus engaged these very different people with the gospel.
Nick had grown up in the church. He was one of those guys whose parents had him there whenever the doors were open. He loved going to church. He loved the people he saw at church. He loved the traditions of the church. They helped him to feel grounded. But even though Nick considered himself to be very religious, there was still a hunger in his heart that had never been satisfied. He would later in his life describe it as an emptiness – an emptiness that could not be filled by going to church, or by being a good person, or even by being recognized as a leader in the congregation. The bottom line was that Nick knew a lot about Christ but had never really met Christ. He was a very spiritual man but he was spiritually dead. When he finally recognized that being religious wasn’t the same as being a Christian he became a fierce seeker after truth.
His quest ended (or began, depending on how you look at it) one night when his desperation became so great, when the hunger pains in his soul grew so intense, that he risked his entire reputation – both professional and church – by initiating a relationship with Jesus.
And it turned his life upside down.
Life had always been tough for Sam. Sam was a nickname her dad had given when she was a little girl – largely because he was disappointed that she wasn’t a little boy. Consequently, he never got close to her. And while Sam craved the attention of her dad, it was always withheld from her. As early as a young teenager she began filling this void in her life in ways that she knew was wrong. She was a very pretty girl and found that there were always young men who were willing to show her not only attention but also physical affection. She made a lot of bad choices concerning men as a young woman and developed the kind of reputation that no girl wants to have. Among the men she was known as “Wam bam thank you Sam”, Among the women she was just known as a “ho.” Though she gave her body away hoping to find the love she so desperately wanted, she never felt loved. She just felt used. By the time she was 25 she felt tired and worn out and worthless.
And then one day , on a day that started out like every other day, she met a man. A man who was not interested in her body but was interested in her soul. His name was Jesus.
And it turned her life upside down.