Summary: Everywhere Jesus went, he left changed lives in his wake. In John 3, Nicodemus encountered Jesus and experienced a compelling curiosity, a confusion conversation, and a courageous conversion.
Encountering Jesus (1)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 1/4/2014
As another year begins, we’re reminded once again that Jesus is the world’s preeminent person. He looms so large over human history that we actually measure time by him; we date our letters, our birth certificates, our checks, and everything else from the year of his birth. It’s been 2015 years since Jesus came into our world and today there is no other name in heaven or on earth that is more loved, more revered or more controversial than Jesus.
At first glance, Jesus’ résumé is rather simple. He never traveled more than a few hundred miles from his hometown. He never wrote a book, never held a political office, never married, never went to college, never visited a big city, and never even won a poker tournament. Yet, everywhere he went, he left changed lives in his wake.
He still does.
As we begin this year, I’d like to examine the stories of six changed lives! They include a scholar, a bean-counter, a couple of blind men, and a zealot among others. Their lives were changed forever because they came in contact with one incredible person—Jesus Christ.
Looking at these lives gives us hope because we find ourselves in some of the same situations. We may be caught in the grip of bad choices or living in the backwash of failure. We may be outstanding members of the community but sense an emptiness in life that possessions and position can’t fill. We may find ourselves in a physical condition or in a marriage relationship that seems impossible to change.
The good news is—Jesus can change us no matter what our life situation. He can give us peace and hope and joy in the most desperate circumstances. But we need a life-changing encounter with him similar to the experience of these six individuals.
The first changed life I want to inspect belongs to a man named Nicodemus. His story is told briefly in John 3 and it begins when Nicodemus is overcome by a compelling curiosity.
• A COMPELLING CURIOSITY
The Bible tells a simple story. John 3 begins with these words: “There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus” (John 3:1-2 NLT).
Jesus won no favor from the Pharisees when he tossed those Temple tables in the previous chapter. So as a Pharisee and member of the Jewish high council, Nicodemus didn’t want his colleagues finding out about his consultation with Christ. They wouldn’t understand. So Nicodemus comes at night. As the shadows darken the city, he steps out, and slips unseen through the cobbled, winding streets until he arrives at the door of the simple house where Jesus and his followers are staying.
I wonder what might compel a man like Nicodemus to skulk through darkens alleys just to meet a carpenter from Nazareth. Nicodemus was a devoutly religious man. He’s a holy man who leads holy men. His name appears on the elite list of Torah scholars. He’s dedicated his life to the law and occupies one of the seventy-one seats of the Judean supreme court. He had clout and credentials. Yet, something keeps nagging at him. For some reason his religion doesn’t satisfy him. He knows there must be more.
But then he hears about Jesus—this backwater preacher who lacks diplomas yet attracts people. Who has ample time for the happy-hour crowd but little time for clergy and the upper crust. He banishes demons, some say; forgives sin, other claim; performs miracles; Nicodemus has no doubt. The first thing Nicodemus says when he meets Christ face-to-face is this: “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” (John 3:2 NIV).
Nicodemus hoped that Jesus could answer his questions. What he didn’t realize is that Jesus is the answer to his questions. After a lifetime of religion, what Nicodemus needed was a relationship.
One Sunday morning, a moonstruck young man shared a church pew with a beautiful brown-eyed girl. Memorized by her beauty, his attention was clearly focused on her rather than the minister’s message. In the stillness of the sanctuary, he leafed through the hymnal until he found the song he was looking for. Thinking himself cute and clever, he placed the songbook in the young lady’s lap and pointed to the hymn title—I Need Thee Every Hour it read. She smiled a little and then started flipping pages until she could find an appropriate response. Settling on a page and returning the hymnal, she pointed to the song I’d Rather Have Jesus.
Nicodemus could learn a lot from that young lady. So could we.