Jewish rabbis in Jesus’ day typically avoided women and stayed away from Samaritans. Thus the Samaritan woman who came to the well in Sychar had at least two strikes against her. Add to this her immoral lifestyle, and Jesus had every reason to evade contact with this woman. Even the woman herself was surprised that Jesus was talking to her: “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (John 4:9). And the evangelist added, “For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” Jesus’ disciples, too, upon their return from grocery shopping in town, “were amazed that he was talking with a woman” (John 4:27).
By contrast, everyone in Jesus’ day would have been honored to engage in conversation with Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Ruling Council. Jesus calls him “Israel’s teacher” (John 3:10 NIV). This teacher visited Jesus by night to inquire tacitly as to the nature of his teaching. Similarly, the Jewish authorities had looked into John the Baptist’s activities (John 1:19). Later, the high priest asked Jesus about his disciples and his teaching at the Jewish trial preceding Jesus’ crucifixion (John 18:19). Yet when Nicodemus showed up on Jesus’ doorstep, Jesus was not intimidated. To the contrary, he challenged him to be born again.
Ever since NT times, the church has had trouble treating the rich and the poor alike. Paul and James both exhorted believers not to give preferential treatment to the wealthy (1 Tim 6:17–19; Jas 2:1–7). By not showing partiality, Jesus exhibited a divine trait, for God is no respecter of persons. You and I should not think that because of our status—say, as a seminary professor or as an upright citizen of our community—we will be treated by God any differently than anyone else. As God told Samuel, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).