This lesson is full of water themes. We have Nicodemus asking Christ what it means to be born again, and we have Christ speaking to the woman at the well about him being the living water. Water seems to be the thread that binds these topics together. Even though this lesson only covers two chapters, there are a number of worthwhile directions you can go in your studies as you read the assignment. I encourage you to not just read this article, but explore the topics discussed in the assignment that pique your interest.
The assignment this week is John 3 – 4.
The lesson begins with Nicodemus coming to Jesus and questioning him about the concept of being born again. Jesus is talking about something as basic as baptism, but the terms being used by Jesus are still above the understanding of the scriptures for Nicodemus. He mistakes the change we are supposed to experience beginning at baptism with a literal physical rebirth, which, of course, cannot happen. The Lord chastised Nicodemus for his ignorance, since Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, and was supposed to be one of the scriptural masters in Israel. It gives you a glimpse into how far the understanding of the people had lapsed without prophets to guide them.
After Jesus chastises Nicodemus for his ignorance, he appears to bear his testimony of himself in verses eleven through twenty one. In verse eleven, this is the text from the first footnote:
The Greek construction suggests that verses 11–21 contain a direct quotation. This testimony of Jesus was given to a member of the Sanhedrin.
In all the times I have read these verses I have never before noticed this note. I always thought Jesus was bearing his testimony to Nicodemus. This footnote suggests that the rest of the conversation with Nicodemus was, in fact, a quote of material Nicodemus would have been well aware of from their own scriptures. But evidently he was still in the dark about their meaning.
In these verses Jesus tells Nicodemus that if he cannot understand earthly things, then what hope does he have of understanding the heavenly things Jesus has to teach. Jesus goes on to testify of his own divinity, then finishes his quote by telling Nicodemus that those who perform wickedness prefer the darkness of spiritual ignorance to the light of truth. The light only serves to point out the sin and since it makes the sinner uncomfortable, they prefer not to hear the truth, but to stay in a state of spiritual darkness, i.e. to remain ignorant of the truth. This is why we cannot be saved in ignorance, and why the Lord condemns those who do not study the gospel.
Before moving on to the next section I would like to point out John 3:34.
34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
The JST footnote on the word “measure” says that unlike we who are given the Spirit in doses, Christ was given full access to the Holy Ghost, without measure. As a mortal, that would be the means whereby Jesus could know people’s thoughts, and understand things not available to the human eye. This is the same process (though on a much reduced scale) that we come to know and understand things that are not possible to know without divine intervention. Teaching us what is not available in the mortal realm is what the Holy Ghost is all about. He is the revealer of truth.
In John 4:6 Jesus arrives at Jacob’s well at about noon (the sixth hour). His disciples go into the town to buy food, and Jesus rests on the side of the well. A woman of Samaria comes out to draw water, and instead of helping her by drawing water for her, he asks her to draw water for him. She asks why he would want anything from someone from Samaria, since he was a Jew and the Jews avoided any dealings with those from Samaria. He then teaches her a lesson, and tells her that if she knew anything about the gifts of God she would be asking him to dispense living water to her so that she would never again thirst.
I’m coming back to the previous paragraph, but let’s finish off the story first. The woman questions Jesus about his sayings and he tells her to go and get her husband. She admits that she has no husband, and Jesus congratulates her on her honesty, for she has had, in fact, five husbands, and the man she is currently living with is not her husband. She realizes she is talking to a prophet. He then proceeds to tell her that he is the Messiah that was promised, at which point she goes into the village to tell all the men that she has found the promised Messiah and to come see.
Okay, let’s get back to the comments about the living water. Physical water is life giving, but temporary. If you don’t replace the water on a consistent basis, sickness and death could be the result. But the truths (living water) that Christ offers us brings everlasting life. We still have to drink it on a regular basis, but it transcends or goes beyond the bounds of mortality, and grants eternal life.
One of the images we teach about baptism is that we go down into the waters of baptism, like being buried in the ground, and coming up in a newness of life. What if we look at the water as the teachings or the word of God? When we steep or immerse ourselves in the Word of God, they cleanse us and change us, and we emerge a new being in Christ. Our desires are changed, our understanding is greatly enlarged, and our capacity for love and doing good is vastly increased. So immersing ourselves in the living waters Jesus offers us, the truths of the gospel, will satisfy our souls so we no longer feel a sense of longing because we cannot find the truth. It is all here in His gospel. Feasting upon his word, drinking from the well of living water, we will gain all the blessings of immortal glory.
This is what Jesus was offering the woman at the well. She did not understand the full implications of what he was offering her, but she understood enough to believe she was truly talking to the one sent from God to deliver the people from bondage, whether political or spiritual.
We drink the living waters of the gospel of Christ when we study the scriptures, go to Church and truly worship, when we pray, and when we seek to understand God’s teachings. The truths of the gospel are our means of salvation that will bring us to exaltation. It is our responsibility to seek out Christ’s living waters. As Jesus said to the woman at the well:
“… If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”
This week let’s be actively seeking to learn the truths of the gospel. Seek these living waters and see what a difference it makes in your day-to-day life and activities. I promise you will be happier.