2020 03 08 Gordon Green NICODEMUS
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What Only God Can Do

Jesus and Nicodemus - John 3:1-17

Redhill. 8 March 2020. Presented by Gordon Green

In the season of Lent we see people encountering Jesus. Today we meet Nicodemus - a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. Pharisees believed that to be right with God you must keep the law.  After dark one evening, he met with Jesus. Jesus got straight to the point. “Listen very carefully, this is so important. I tell you the truth, unless you are born again (born from above is better), you cannot see (experience, perceive) the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. One of the things Jesus did was to challenge the conventional thinking of His day, He tried to get people to go to a deeper level of thought concerning life.

When we hear the phrase “born again,” we may think of dramatic conversion stories of drug addicts and criminals. Or someone immoral, living in dysfunction and chaos finally finding Jesus. Or radically secular people coming to believe. Nicodemus fits none of those notions!  Nicodemus was a good man, a highly respected religious leader and teacher of the law. He was one of the most moral, religious, upstanding, intellectual, tax-paying citizens you’ll ever meet. But Jesus tells him he needs to be born again. Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” This is the source of spirituality. This is not something humans can do. The Holy Spirit does it.  Jesus continued; 7 “So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’” Jesus  was saying “If you don’t change your ideas you’ll never be able to participate in what God is doing in bringing his kingdom into the world. To get a new perspective about who God is and who you are you must be born again. If you want a heavenly perspective and see life through the eyes of God you must be born again.

Jesus challenged Nicodemus to re-evaluate and rethink everything he believed and had learned. “He was getting a deconstruction of his faith system and experiencing a paradigm shift.” Being born again means to start from the beginning. Think of this: God made everything you have – legs, eyes hands. You made nothing. He was the one who made everything new the first time and he is the one who makes everything new the second time (2Cor 5:17). At our new birth God gives us what we need. New eyes so we can see by faith, a new mind so we can have the mind of Christ. A new vision so we won’t give up. A new heart that has been cleansed by Christ. We are united to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The first birth was for earthly birth the second for eternal life. There is something else – we were not active in our birth. We were passive. You were not born because of what you did. Someone else did all the work and felt all the pain. Your mother did the pushing and the struggling. Your birth was due to someone else’s efforts. The same is true of our spiritual birth. It is through God’s pain that we were born. It’s not our struggle, but God’s. It’s not our blood shed, but His. Born again implies becoming a new person – starting over.

The answer is not within you, it comes from outside. Yes, this is difficult to understand. It is a mystery. 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.” We can’t explain how it all happens. It is a supernatural experience.

“Being born again of the Spirit is an unmistakable work of God; it’s as mysterious as the wind, as surprising as God Himself. Being born again from above is a perennial, perpetual and eternal beginning — a freshness all the time in thinking, and in talking, and in living. It is the continual surprise of the life of God.” -Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

It is a mystery. We mustn’t feel we have all the answers. We’re all different. There is no formula. He was pointing in a new direction but gave Nicodemus a choice.  He was challenging him to take a leap of faith.  Jesus even refers to a story (3:14-15) whose central action is looking up.  In Numbers there is a strange story of poisonous snakes biting the Israelites. Moses made a bronze serpent, put it on a pole and everyone who looked up at it was healed. The poisoned people had to look up, outside of themselves. Just as the connection between healing and looking at a piece of metal on a pole was mysterious, so our healing that comes through the cross is mysterious. And yet it’s what we need. The poison of sin is too powerful, and it’s nothing we can heal on our own. Nicodemus would see Jesus lifted up on the cross.

 

Nicodemus had never heard anything like this. Then Jesus says: 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.” No rules were given. No system. No code. No formula. Could God be so generous? These words rang in his head - everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 Not everyone who achieves, succeeds, agrees but everyone who believes will experience eternal life – not just a reference to life after death but life now. But Nicodemus was a changed man. Later he publicly stood up for Jesus in the council.  Everyone else was condemning him. He was brave to do that. There was already a plot to get rid of Jesus. There was the fear that he was about to start a revolution. And then:

39 With Joseph came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment…. they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. 41 The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb…. they laid Jesus there.

Joseph and Nicodemus dressed the body of Jesus. This was the work of women and slaves—not men and definitely not men of influence. We see a new Nicodemus. We see his commitment. He feels free of his religious and cultural baggage. He was saying I believe this man is the Messiah. His identity is in Christ, even though he doesn’t understand everything he’s beginning to see.

Imagine how Nicodemus felt when he saw Jesus lifted upon the cross. It was God’s love on full display for all to see. He must have been overwhelmed by the love of God and moved to action. Originally he came at night in secret but now he was out in the open in front of everyone.  The last time we see him is publicly doing the work of those considered the lowest in that society.

Do you feel in the dark right now? There doesn’t seem to be any light in this dark world. World events, Coronavirus, personal worries, illnesses. Perhaps your faith is being tested now – even beyond measure. Perhaps you have some questions or doubts. Perhaps you are even wondering if God exists. Did all these things about Jesus really happen. Are they true? Can I trust the Bible?

Read Ps 27 especially verse 13. I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.”

We need to be honest. There are things that are mysteries to us. We don’t understand. We don’t have the answers. Paul said for we know in part. We often we feel in the dark but Jesus is the light in the dark place, the light in a dark world. Some things will remain in the darkness but Jesus is the light of the world. It’s all centered in Jesus. Center, anchor your life on Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus.

“My faith is a small boat in a vast ocean of mystery.” Be okay about that. We have questions. That’s good. But even though your boat is small, hold onto to Jesus Christ in the troubled sea because he is in that troubled sea saying “do not fear it is I.”

 



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