Sunday, March 20, 2011

John 3:1-21

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus
 1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.”
 4 “How can anyone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
   10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 All those who do evil hate the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But those who live by the truth come into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Today's reading contains perhaps the most famous verse in the whole scripture - John 3:16. No matter how many times we hear it, those words inspire our ultimate hope. There is a God and this God loves us - completely, without reservation, in spite of our brokenness. In fact He loves us so much that He died for us... for you. If you missed it, we focused on this passage during our last series (Love Songs) with the sermon titled, "500 Miles" - you can listen to it here.

However, there is a lot more to this section of scripture than just verse 16. Notice all the attention paid to light. Nicodemus comes in darkness - hiding from who he is, and struggling to see the truth. We see again that Jesus is presented as bringing light - a light that shows truth, and a light that exposes us. Yet this light is also hope and in it we find grace. If you look closely, you'll see a conversation between a man who asks some fairly practical questions and Jesus who offers something we only dream of... new life.

What questions would you ask Jesus if you could talk to him today? How do you think he would respond? What might surprise you if Jesus was talking to you today? What do you think about the whole idea of New Life? Would you say that is your experience of being a Christ follower - do you need to ask for new life today?

Take a few minutes and just talk to God. Talk to Him like you were having a conversation. Give yourself permission to ask questions that are honest - even if they don't sound very spiritual (like how can a man go back in his mother's womb to be born again). Say something like this...
God, you promise a love that goes way beyond what I deserve. I don't always really understand it and sometimes I don't fully feel like I experience new life. Would you give me the light I need to see - to see me, to see You, to see hope? Help me really get how much you love me and make me new. Amen.
(Caz Minter)