Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’
This passage is full
This week’s reading includes one of (if not THE) the best known verses in Christian Scripture
held up on signs at American football games, what is it?
John 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
What does it mean for God to Love the world? We will come back to that.
and there is controversy in these passages
theological battle lines are drawn based on some of these words.
Water is thematic in John’s gospel
There is the Baptism of Jesus in the waters of the river Jordan by John in Chapter 1
Water fills the jars in Cana
and here again there is mention of water
as you think about the character of Nicodemus…
are you sympathetic towards him?
he comes to Jesus
seeking to learn
Or are you suspicious of him?
Why does he come at night?
Nicodemus takes it literally
He is an ambiguous figure
According to John, Nicodemus will later come in the light of day bringing spices to anoint Jesus for burial
I like Nicodemus, he seems like a real person
He’s a good guy. He is genuinely interested in learning from Jesus, he just doesn’t want to be too public about it, in case he might offend someone.
Some suggest he comes at night because that is when he studies… we don’t really know if it is conceal himself.. but that has been the conclusion most come to
He wants to be a good person and serve God, but he is busy, like most of us.
He comes to Jesus with a claim about who he thinks Jesus is. “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”
This is not a bold claim.
He sees Jesus as a good guy, a teacher sent from God.
He believes the signs Jesus does could not be done without God.
He’s a religious leader, he’s educated.
The fact is sometimes, we can let what we know get in the way of what we need to learn.
When we think we have the experience, the answers, the wisdom we need to solve whatever situation we’re in, I wonder if we forget Jesus might have more to teach us.
Nicodemus sure seemed to think he had all the answers he needed when he started up the conversation in the dark with Jesus.
And then when Jesus starts talking to him about being born anew, born again, Nicodemus just can’t make sense of it. “What are you talking about Jesus? We know how babies are born. What does that have to do with what I’m talking about?”
Nicodemus has a point.
Nicodemus doesn’t understand… and he is in good company
the disciples don’t understand
and, do we?
When Jesus talks about being born from above or being born again in KJV
Christians are still in disagreement as to what that really means
What does it mean to be born from above or again?
how do you feel about that?
We have differences in opinion about what that means
It may surprise some of you to learn that I had a born again experience in my teens… but unlike some I don’t think that experience is a requirement for faith…
Jesus sees to it that no ordinary learning takes place
His aim is not to help Nicodemus understand,
but to make him begin at the beginning; start over
not to help him know, but to reduce him to unknowing,
to send him into a wilderness of silence, a desert of humility
Jesus doesn’t care what Nicodemus knows.
He cares about Nicodemus.
He wants to undermine the sensible, reasoned thing that passes for a good and virtuous life.
And at the end, when all Nicodemus can do is throw up his hands, Jesus knows he has him
Nicodemus lives in all of us who have ever come up against the limits of reason in the face-of the death of a child,
in our powerlessness in confronting addiction— whether it be ours or someone we love,
in the fear or panic that no one will ever love us
in the face of a broken dream or a relationship,
in the blank dullness of depression,
in despair over the human condition,
Nicodemus lives in all of us who have come to the end of our convictions and assumptions, our doctrines, our images of God, our wisdom or skill or courage or knowledge or self-confidence;
hit that limit hard, head-on, and finally thrown up our hands in defeat in the face of unbending mysteries;
all of us who have ever hung our heads in humility and surrender
Nicodemus lives in all of us
all of us who grapple with What it means for God to Love the world?
What does it mean for God to love the world? For God to love you and me?
We have been talking about love a lot the past few weeks… if you look at the 2018 ministry goals… they can be summed up by love
the 3 great loves
loving God, and loving our neighbors as ourselves
love that is an action word, not a warm fuzzy feeling
our neighbors… who are anyone who has a need, anyone we come in contact with
God so loved the world…God so loves the world and from here we begin. Amen
Narrative Lectionary:Born Again (again)
Now You Can Begin