Summary: This sermon provides a look at Nicodemus coming to visit Jesus at night. In life, we are called to stand in the light and we are called to be light.
Faith in the Shadows?
Fourth Sunday in Lent 2006
Dr. Paul G. Humphrey
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Have you ever cleaned your living room and thought that it was clean only to have the sun shine in through the window and reveal all the dust that was left behind? Ruth Graham tells of the time that the TV news wanted to interview she and her husband Billy at their home. They got the house all spic and span clean. That is until the TV lights were turned on in their living room. All that Ruth could see was the dust and cobwebs that had been missed.
Light will always expose the dirt. The closer we get to Jesus the more we will have to deal with “hidden sin” in our lives. Little things that we had never noticed before will become a big deal when exposed by the light.
Contributed by: D. Greg Ebie [SermonCentral]
Sometimes we don’t want to stand in the light because of having our sins revealed. Sometimes in life, we might not want the light to expose our relationship with Jesus. So it was with Nicodemus.
One night a man came through the shadows to see Jesus. He was a member of the Sanhedrin. He would have been well respected in the community. He came secretly to see Jesus, yet his questions for Jesus were sincere.
JN 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."
Nicodemus had a lot to loose by having association with Jesus. Politics can turn as the wind blows, because the crowd can turn as the wind blows.
You know how politics are today, Democrats and Republicans alike concerned over having their picture taken with someone who later got into trouble.
Nicodemus has a lot at stake. He has a lot of earthly things at stake.
Nicodemus met Jesus with an affirmation. We know that you are a teacher from God. One might want to reply, well, if that is what you believe, why are you sneaking through the shadows. Jesus will say as much in a minute, but Jesus begins this conversation oddly. Jesus does not mess around with small talk. It is as though he already knows what is on Nicodemus’ mind.
JN 3:3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. "
JN 3:4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!"
When I first began ministry, I felt sorry for Nicodemus thinking that he was ignorant, and that he actually believed that Jesus was talking about being physically born again. Yet, Nicodemus is not ignorant. He knows that this is not what Jesus is saying. He is fishing for a clear answer. Further, he may be speaking in allegory as well. He may be saying, "can an old dog learn new tricks?" or "How can transformation happen when you are old and set in your ways." Nicodemus is seeking a clear answer to the transformation that Jesus is speaking of.
JN 3:5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
Some commentators have differed throughout the ages about the meaning of water in this verse. Some believe it is speaking of baptism. If had to choose one thing that I believed that it represented, it would be speaking of physical birth, and the water of the womb. When a woman is going to have a baby her water breaks, and Nicodemus has just spoken about earthly birth.
The next verse rephrases the same statement.
6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
Yet, I believe that it may represent more than simply physical birth. Nicodemus may have heard John the Baptist preaching and having seen the baptism of repentance, heard John saying that there is one coming after me who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Further, the Jews would baptize a Gentile who decided to become a Jew, having him or her to burn their old clothing . . . creating a new born Jewish person.
Don’t think that I am saying baptism is a requriement for salvation. If baptism alone could save, or was required to save, then Judas would probably be in heaven, while the theif on the cross wouldn’t. I believe that the water represents physical birth plus all other physical rituals that in and of themselves fall short of what Jesus is offering.