“Nicodemus”

John 3:1-17

8 March 2020, 2nd Sunday of Lent

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

 

John 3:1-17

 

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.

 

Prayer.

1

Four of six Sundays during Lent this year will feature the alternate Gospel of St. John.

Fitting 4 Gospels into a 3-year rotation requires an occasional dipping into the odd Gospel out.

The four passages from John this year are unique to John,

not found in the parallel Gospels of Matthew, Mark, or Luke.

So, our lesson today about Nicodemus visiting Jesus, is only found here in chapter 3.

 

When you think about the Gospel of John, think Holy Spirit.

 

Scholars call this “Pneumatology”

–  Pneuma- : from the Greek, meaning air or wind –

– Tology: from the Greek, meaning the study of the ways of God –

Or, the study of God, whose presence is like air or the wind.

 

Think Gospel of John, think Holy Spirit.

 

Each Gospel has its own unique character, flavor, worldview, development, and audience.

John places a large emphasis on the character and actions of God as Spirit,

the Holy Spirit.

 

Here are some examples:

 

John the Baptist testified to the presence and action of the Holy Spirit

at the baptism of Jesus. (1:32)

 

John reports Jesus teaching that

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (4:24)

 

Jesus promises his Heavenly Father will send the Holy Spirit,

as an Advocate on behalf of his disciples,

after his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. (14:15-31)

 

In the 15th chapter Jesus teaches,

“When the Advocate comes,

the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father,

Will testify on my behalf.” (15:26)

 

The Spirit will be a substitute for Jesus,

Who will guide disciples to

the truth. (16:12)

 

The Gospel of John even has its own unique record of the Pentecost,

When and how the Holy Spirit comes,

Differing from that which is recorded in Acts of the Apostles.

John records that after the resurrection,

Jesus visits the disciples locked away in an upper room,

He breaths on them, saying

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;

if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (20:22-23)

 

Think Gospel of John, think Holy Spirit.

 

So, we should hardly be surprised today

When Jesus responds to the questions from a Pharisee named Nicodemus,

Inquiring under cover of night:

How can anyone be born a second time

So that they can see or enter the kingdom of God?

 

“No one can enter the kingdom of God,” Jesus teaches,

“without being born of water and Spirit.” (3:5)

 

Nicodemus wants to see and enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus tells him you must be born of water and Spirit.

 

Life is a dichotomy of choices, Jesus observes in this Gospel passage:

There is flesh and there is spirit. (3:6)

There are earthy things and there are heavenly things. (3:12)

There is punishment and condemnation under the Law and

there is faith, belief, and eternal life with Jesus Christ. (3:15-18)

There is darkness and there is light. (3:19)

 

There is water and there is spirit.

One must be born of water and Spirit to see and enter the kingdom of God.

Here, I would not suggest that being born of water is a reference of baptism.

Jesus internally cites the dichotomy of flesh.

Because of this, I’d suggest Jesus is speaking of human birth;

The mother’s water breaking,

Releasing new life.

Human flesh born of water.

 

One must be born of water and Spirit to see and enter the kingdom of God.

What does Jesus mean to be born of the Spirit?

 

First, we don’t control the Holy Spirit.

God doesn’t fetch our sticks.

 

Jesus rightly observes,

“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.” (3:8)

 

Nicodemus can’t force the wind to comply to his demand

Any more than you or I can.

God acts according to God’s own will,

In God’s own time.

 

Therefore, it is God’s initiative and will

for the world – that’s you and me –

to see and enter God’s kingdom.

 

Our responsibility is simply to claim

God’s initiative for our own.

Claiming God’s initiative is called “belief”.

Believe in Jesus and claim eternal life.

This is God’s will and greatest desire.

 

Don’t think of God as passively twiddling away time

planning to someday give birth to you through the Holy Spirit.

 

God is in active pursuit;

giving relentless chase to you and me.

God is at work through the Holy Spirit

With the tenacity of the Hounds of Hell.

Once the hunt is on

The Spirit isn’t going to give up or give in.

 

Game on.

 

The God who made time

Has all eternity to hunt you and me down.

 

The God who made you

Is going to be the God who claims you.

 

The God who made you

Is the God who loves you so much

He gives you Jesus.

 

The God who made you

Sacrificed his Son for you.

 

The God who made you

Comes as the wind,

Blows when and where it chooses, and

Sweeps you and me away.

 

There isn’t a thing you or I can do about it

Except to say

“Yes Lord.

I believe.”

 

Resist if you want.

Hunker down in the bathtub of life.

Take shelter and hope God doesn’t

Blow your roof off,

Kick your doors in, and

Knock your walls down.

 

Like a tornado in a trailer park,

Or a State Trooper on a manhunt,

God is coming after you.

The Spirit will arrest you, and

Hold you

Until you believe.

 

How do I know?

The Bible tells me so.

 

The Gospel of John played itself out

With Saul on the road to Damascus,

With John Wesley on Aldersgate Street,

With Todd Goddard in front of March Chapel

at Boston University 40 years ago.

 

Next time some well-meaning person asks you

“Are you born again?”

Tell them

it’s hard not to be!

 

It’s hard not to be born again with a God who so loves the world that he sent us Jesus.

It’s hard not to be born from above with a God that wants us to believe.

It’s hard not to be born of the Holy Spirit with a God who desires to save us from death and give us eternal life.

 

Tag.

You’ve been caught.

All that’s left

is to believe.

 

Surrender.

Come out with your hands up.

Let the Spirit take you and do with you as the Spirit will.

Come into the light.

Breathe and believe.

Amen.

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