Monday, February 11, 2008

John 3:1-17 Story telling about Nicodemus and Jesus

John 3:16 is a much loved part of scripture. It's known by fans at football games and is often chosen by families I meet preparing for a Funeral. There's good reason to love John 3:16. Martin Luther said,

...we find rich, excellent, and salutary words in this text. They should be diligently heeded.

This Gospel is customarily preached to the congregation every Whitmonday. It is so pregnant with meaning that it can never be exhausted.

Luther's Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4. Edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann. Luther's Works. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1957 page 369.

Luther's right, this verse alone can never be exhausted, but there's a great story in John 3 that leads us to this wonderful verse. We're often tempted to jump right to Jesus point about God loving the world; but John doesn't jump ahead. He does his very best to tell the story of what happened one night. There's so much that can be said just about the timing and the darkness people live in who come looking for Jesus.

Jesus was getting famous and people from all over came to meet him and hear him teach. One man called Nicodemus, a leader of the Jewish people, came out at night to find him. They started talking about faith and all the signs Jesus had performed. Nicodemus said that no one could do such things who wasn't from God. Jesus said that everyone who wants to see God must be born from above. This concept was mind-blowing for Nicodemus and still is for all of us.

Nicodemus listened and asked how he, fully grown, could be born anew. Jesus said, most likely with a smile, that God's Spirit blows free in the world. God is in the business of stirring up faith and moving us into action in the world. Nicodemus was in over his head. Jesus knew he didn't understand, none of us do in this life understand all that God is up to, but we have faith.

Some-days we struggle to believe. Our faith falters. We lose sight of all God’s gifts and all God’s promises. But God remains ever faithful keeping every promise. Nicodemus listened that night. Jesus told him the promise, that God's love is for the whole world in order that everyone who believes might be save. I don't know if Nicodemus believed on the spot or if he wrestled for some time. What I know is that Nicodemus returned again in Jesus life. The last time he he came forward in John was to help bury Jesus.

The heart of the Gospel is here for all to hear. Even if we slip into fear the maker of heaven and earth loves each of us his adopted children so much that he offers his only begotten son to save us. He is doing more than extending a hand to pull us up. He reaches for us through death so that we will not be lost. Faith is God's gift. Sometimes it burns bright and other times it is an ember deep deep within us. But even that ember is enough for God Spirit to stir to life. Even in the moments when we lose our faith God is always faithful. Even if we die Jesus is still going to be the resurrection and the life. Even if we die we will have life in him.

Luther wrote on about this faith being a force that leaves the Devil most uncomfortable. When our faith burns bright it forces him out into the open. We no longer fear his accusations or his torments on earth or in hell. Instead we see Christ and our hope burns bright.

1 comment:

Nick Skapyak said...

I would like to discuss the possibility of printing "John 3:1-17 Story telling about Nicodemus and Jesus" in the Winter 2011 issue of The Lutheran Digest.

If you're interested, please respond via email at editor (at) lutherandigest (dot) com.

Thanks for your consideration.

Nick Skapyak, Editor
The Lutheran Digest
editor (at) lutherandigest (dot) com