2nd Sunday in Lent | March 8, 2020
3 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
9 “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
10 Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? 11 I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. 12 But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:1-17 New Living Translation (NLT)
This week’s reading brings us to John 3. The story of Jesus and Nicodemus. I find it interesting that in the next chapter we find the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. John gives us several of these encounters with Jesus. Sometimes the person is seeking Jesus out to ask a question, other times – in a way – Jesus seeks the person out. And in a least one case the person is brought to him.
This time however, Jesus is being sought out by a seeker – a Jewish religious leader. This event happens not long after Jesus cleansed the temple, so there has already been an encounter between the Jewish religious leaders and Jesus. Perhaps Nicodemus was there when Jesus drove out the buyers and sellers – perhaps he was intrigued at Jesus’ words, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
We don’t know exactly why Nicodemus showed up, but we know that he wanted to find out more about this Jesus. From John’s account, we do know that he was a religious man – and perhaps in the back of his mind – he remembered the words of the prophets. He knows – based on what he has heard – that Jesus is sent from God.
Nicodemus wants to know more about the Kingdom of God and Jesus says these familiar words, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
This confuses Nicodemus greatly. After all, this is the first time this terminology has been used. In 21st Century America, we are familiar with this phrase. But Nicodemus is new to this. In John’s description of the discussion it’s tough to know tone, but I believe that Jesus patiently explained what He meant.
He explained that Nicodemus must be transformed spiritually from the old, natural person to the new, Spirit-birthed person. The reason that Jesus came is that we can be transformed from our selfish old life into a life that reflects the creator of life Himself. Jesus also came that we might have life – and have it to the full – and He came that we may live with Him forever in heaven.
We are promised in this scripture that those who believe in Jesus – the one lifted up on a tree or pole to die – will have eternal life.
We are reminded once again. A passage that used to be seen on TV often:
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.John 3:16-17
So many people think that God is out to judge them. If He wanted to do that He could – after all He is God. But He loved His creation so much that He wanted to make a way. That Way is Jesus. John reminds us through Jesus’ words that Jesus didn’t come to judge the world but to save it. Jesus came for sinners like you and me. On my very best day, I am a sinner saved by grace. Jesus invites us to come – be transformed by the cross – be transformed by belief in Jesus – and receive a beautiful – abundant – full – eternal life.