Saturday, June 11, 2011


Today's passage:  John 3
     My husband (he will probably read this today of all days) has a tendency to change subjects quickly and without warning in a conversation.  We could be talking about Cubs baseball and then without any transitions he might be talking about his latest ride.  We laugh about it because too many times I'm answering a question I think is from the previous subject and he is asking a question from the new subject that he hasn't introduced. It makes for interesting communication sometimes.
     As I'm reading the encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus, I'm wondering why Jesus started talking about being born again?  Nicodemus admits that he believes Jesus must be a teacher from God, but he doesn't ask a question.  Jesus then says, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee.  Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God".  Most of the time in the gospels, I see Jesus being asked a question, which he answers.  In this case, Jesus introduces the topic, without a question.  Either part of the conversation is missing (which must not be important or God would have let us in on it) or Jesus jumps to the heart of what is bothering Nicodemus.  Jesus answers the question Nicodemus does not ask, but is probably on his heart. 
     Nicodemus had come there at night.  He was a Pharisee, and that group had already voiced their opposition to this man called Jesus.  It is understandable why Nicodemus did not want to be seen with Christ.  Yet, Nicodemus must have something burning inside him, because he wants to know about this man.  What he has seen and heard from Jesus has challenged him to believe that this is not a pseudo-Messiah.  He believes there is something genuine about this teacher and he wants to find out more.
     Jesus does not really acknowledge the compliment Nicodemus pays him.  Too often, the Pharisees used flattery to disarm someone, and then dove in with a complicated question.  I'm not sure if that is Nicodemus' intent.  It could be, it is interesting that he says "we know that thou art a teacher come from God".  Who is the we in this statement?  The Pharisees?  They did not believe that Jesus was from God.  They were determined to prove otherwise.  Jesus moves right past this statement and shows Nicodemus he has a problem.  Nicodemus was living a life based on what he did.  The Pharisees were sticklers about keeping the Law.  He could do this, he could not do that.  He could go here, he could not go there.  It was all about following the rules.  The heart was not involved.  And when someone followed all these rules, they earned a spot in Heaven.  Jesus shatters Nicodemus' view on what it takes to reach God.  In one statement He tells Nicodemus that all this stuff he is doing is futile.  He tells Nicodemus that it is not what he does, it is who he must be.  He must be born again.  Jesus looks right into Nicodemus' heart, He sees that Nicodemus believes he is right with God, but feels something is missing.  Jesus answers the question to the subject Nicodemus has not yet introduced.  This flusters Nicodemus at first, and confuses him, because he asks the question, "How can a man be born when he is old?  can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?"  Notice again how Nicodemus focuses on what he must do.  What can he do to be born again?  He knows he can't climb back into his mother's belly, but there must be some way he can accomplish this impossible task.  What can he do to be born again?  Jesus explains that is not something you do, it is something you are.  The most quoted and beautiful verse in the Bible, answers all his questions.  John 3:16.  It is not about works, it is about belief.  Would Nicodemus believe?  John 3 does not really tell us.  Later, at Jesus' death, we find that Nicodemus did become a believer.  He finally understood that it was not what he did, but who he was.  In the end, he was a follower of Christ. 
     "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

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