Lesson 12: Jesus: The True Gift of Gab

Methods of Jesus.12

Lesson 12: Jesus: The True Gift of Gab

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this module facilitators should be equipped to:

  • Trace the conversation of Jesus in great teaching moments with Nicodemus and the woman at the well.
  • Gain insight into how to relate to questions.
  • Observe how Jesus dealt with distractions and diversions.
  • Know how to bring conversations to a salvation focus.

Jesus often taught in a conversational manner, yet He was purposeful. He got to the heart of spiritual matters in such a way to generate interest, awaken inquiry, spark reflective thinking, and initiate action. Dialogue with others resulted in qualification and instruction in relationship to the mind-set of the learner.

Jesus Met Nicodemus

Nicodemus approached Jesus with an inquiry in the form of a statement (John 3:2), but Jesus saw a seeker for truth in the statement (The Desire of Ages, p. 168). Facilitators must always be alert to discern questions behind statements (see the Class Facilitator’s Seminar for February 2007).

For example, a class member says, “I am tired of hearing about all the morbid things in the Bible, such as the story of Job’s suffering.” The facilitator may notice a drawn countenance, red eyes, and other body language that indicate that the person is stressed. Rather than heap admonition on the member, the facilitator should attempt to minister to that person’s needs with sympathy and understanding.

Jesus knew that Nicodemus really was hungering for confirmation of faith, so he moved directly to the point, the newbirth (John 3:3). Facilitators should be ready to carefully zero in on the real issue when a member openly or inadvertently displays a spiritual need.

Jesus used a familiar cue to address the need of Nicodemus. Jewish leaders spoke of converts to Judaism as being “born again.”

Jesus Did Not Retaliate

When Nicodemus used irony, the method of intellectuals of His day (John 3:4), Jesus did not retaliate in kind but went on to clarify His meaning by reference to water baptism and the wind (John 3:5-8). Jesus was earnestly persistent in getting to the heart of spiritual reality. Facilitators must kindly respond to defensive or combative derision. They should manifest the tender compassion of Christ yet patiently focus on the goal of the lesson.

Jesus Intensified Hunger

It is clear that when Jesus talked about being born of the Spirit and when He further used the wind to illustrate the work of the Holy Spirit, Nicodemus’ interest was aroused. He said, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9). Like Jesus, the skillful facilitator will try not to force information upon a closed mind, but will attempt to awaken honest inquiry.

Jesus did not immediately satisfy the curiosity of Nicodemus. He intensified it to the extent that Nicodemus was desperate to know. Jesus prepared the mind of Nicodemus to be ready to grasp the most profound spiritual truth. He pointed out that Nicodemus should know how a person should be born again since he was a leader in Israel (John 3:10-12).

Some of the best teaching moments may be dismissed by a quick answer to satisfy the curiosity of the learner. The facilitator may unknowingly pass over opportunities to share profound truths in an effort to get back to his or her agenda. The skillful facilitator should often deepen and qualify the need before presenting the solution.

For example, going back to the class member who expresses weariness from hearing morbid stories, the facilitator might ask if other class members feel the same way. The facilitator could ask why such stories are stressful or depressing. Further discussion may bring out the cause and circumstance of the “weary” member’s situation. By further qualification of the need, the facilitator may be more precise in applying the solution.

For example, it could be very reassuring to focus on the fact that Job not only experienced restitution but also received God’s endorsement before the universe and that at times God allows a few trusted folks to participate in His suffering to bear witness for eternity.

When Nicodemus was eager for an answer, Jesus referred to an experience familiar to Nicodemus, the serpent displayed by Moses in the wilderness. He then went on to share one of the most profoundly direct accounts of how the new birth takes place by looking to and believing in the Savior uplifted on the cross.

Jesus Was Accepting

Another classic teaching conversation took place between Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4). Jesus opened this discussion in an unexpected manner. First, he addressed a woman who was both a stranger and a member of a race despised by the Jews. Second, he asked for a favor (John 4:7). This is an example of how facilitators may encourage conversation by taking a humble role rather than assuming an air of superiority.

Jesus knew that the woman might have felt inferior due to the subservient role of women and due to the prejudices against Samaritans. He elevated her significance by talking to her and asking her for a favor. If there are members in the class who seldom speak because they feel a lack of education or Christian experience, facilitators may encourage them by acknowledging some advantage the person may hold over the others. In the case of the woman at the well, her advantage was that she had a means of extracting water from the well and Jesus did not.

The woman did not directly respond to His request, but opened up about her own need. She focused on the fact that it was unusual for a Jew to ask a favor of a Samaritan, especially a woman (John 4:9).

The alert facilitator notices when a class member turns the conversation around to a personal issue of significance. This can be a teachable moment. The Holy Spirit gives the tongue of the learned in order to know how to speak a word in season to the weary (Isa. 50:4).

Jesus was alert to the sense of hurt and alienation this woman felt in relationship to the people chosen by God. He knew that her great need was to be accepted by God Himself. He did not answer her question dealing with social differences, but went directly to her need and spoke of the water of life.

Jesus Prepared Hearers for Greater Information

As in the conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus awakened curiosity and prepared the mind of the woman to receive life-changing truth. He called attention to three mysteries: (1) the gift of God, (2) His identity, and (3) living water (John 4:10). He told her that if only she knew these mysteries she would ask for living water. Here again Jesus did not force truth upon an unreceptive mind and heart.

Jesus Used Inquiry Learning

The woman asked how Jesus would give her water, since the well was deep and he had no bucket or rope (John 4:11). She must have begun to sense something unusual about this Man because she asked if He were greater than Jacob who had given the well to them. Again the skillful facilitator will detect spiritual hunger in secularly based inquiries. The stories of Jacob’s night of wrestling, his vision of the ladder, and the promise of a Messiah had no doubt been told, retold, and held in great respect by both Jews and Samaritans.

Jesus then addressed the spiritual need of this woman that was deeper and greater than physical thirst. He used the cues of water and thirst to call attention to something that would continue to quench the spiritual thirst of the soul. Facilitators should be ready to testify and assist class members to testify about how the waters of salvation quench the spiritual thirst of the soul (John 4:13, 14).

Jesus Targeted Learning

The woman then asked for living water. This is the ultimate target of spiritual learning. Facilitators must be alert to discern when members are asking for the water of life. For example, a class member might say, “I wish I could stay calm in the office when there are deadlines and the computers go on the blink.” Or one might say, “I feel as if I hear about one more disaster that I will come apart at the seams.” This may be the time to make sure the person knows how to partake of the water of life freely and to experience the fruit of the Spirit. Those who are physically or emotionally broken may also need to be referred to a therapist or physician.

Jesus Confronted Sin

When the woman asked for living water, Jesus called attention to the condition that prevented her from experiencing the fresh water of life. He told her to go call her husband (John 4:16). When she said she had no husband, he told her the secrets of her heart and her marital status (John 4:17, 18). Like Jesus, confront sin in order to prepare hearts to receive the Savior in ways that persons sense that you are their friend, pitying and loving them (The Desire of Ages, pp. 189, 190).

As is most often the case when the issue at hand gets close to the heart, the woman switched to a theological debate. She asked about the place of worship (John 4:20). Jesus brought her back to a spiritual application, pointing to the source of salvation (John 4:21-24). The woman then asked the target question about the Messiah, and Jesus was able to reveal Himself to her (John 4:25, 26). Like Jesus, facilitators must not allow themselves to be drawn into the foggy swamp of semantics and theory.


Try facilitating class discussion in the form of a conversation rather than a question-and-answer session.

  • Engage members in discussion.
  • Awaken interest.
  • Prepare minds to receive truth.
  • Focus on spiritual meaning and salvation.

Enjoy facilitating spiritual learning.

Jim Kilmer
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists