Summary: This sermon was given at an outdoor service in downtown Toronto - a call to turn to Jesus who is God's answer to the question: Who is God? Where is my healer, my deliver. What is the best hope on the planet for an excellent life.
In the reading that we just had today there was a question.
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
It was a question from a man, named Nicodemus, a man rooted in a certain period of time in history and rooted in a certain culture.
It was a question from a man who knew Jesus personally, had been impacted already before this conversation by the man Jesus. He knew that Jesus spoke and lived as a rabbi with a unique message.
He knew that Jesus the rabbi, Jesus the teacher was becoming known as a miracle worker.
Jesus also claimed a special relationship with God, and it was clear, and probably alarming that Jesus' actions and attitudes lined up exactly with what he said.
It was so clear that Nicodemus said: “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.”
Now the man's question followed something Jesus said about the new birth, and how the ‘new birth’ is key to being able to see the Kingdom of God, to enter into the Kingdom of God.
So Jesus was talking about spirituality rooted in God, rooted in the reign of God. Jesus didn’t know of or ever speak of spirituality that was on any level apart from God or separate from God.
Jesus says to Nicodemus: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
So Nicodemus, upon hearing that statement, tries to wrap his brain around what Jesus is saying.
His first run at interpreting Jesus words was kinda literal: 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
And, he’s right. Sometimes it’s important to state the obvious in order to get beyond the obvious.
It was an obvious question on the one hand, but it was also a question with layers of meaning, because it was in response to Jesus’ talking about the Kingdom of God, again the reign of God.
And you can never talk about or think about God without wondering about your connection to God. For me it’s hard to think about God without thinking about hope, about mystery, about love, about our ultimate purpose here on earth.
So behind the obvious, I think Nicodemus question was a question about hope, a question about how people connect with God.
And the question he asks really boils down to the type of question that many of us have asked at one point or other in our lives. How do we come closer to God?
And attached to that question is always another question, and that is: “What is God like? What is the identity of God? What is the nature and the character of God? Is God an idea?
Is God a reality but one that is so abstract and impossible for the human mind to comprehend, that there is no point in trying to go any further with that question?
When I hit 17 years of age, even though I’d never believed in God or given the slightest thought to there being a God, when I met some people who followed Jesus for real, and when I got to know them and discovered how completely differently they thought about life and experienced life, and then when I first heard these words of Jesus, I started to think about those questions for the first time. It was a very unsettling experience.
I wondered: is there a God, and is God somehow knowable? Pause. Is God someone, who can be known, perhaps NOT by human capacity or ingenuity, knowable, but is God knowable through any other means?
And those are questions that for those who lean toward such thoughts, are very important.
They are questions that we want to find answers to, if there ARE answers, so that we connect the dots of our lives together, and so that we can perhaps locate ourselves in the bigger story of God’s world, and so that we can find meaning in this life.
We want to know: Can God be known? And who is God? And if God can be known, how do I know Him?
And behind that question, if we’re honest, is perhaps another question: Where do I stand in my life now because of who God is?
This dialogue between Nicodemus and Jesus winds up in Jesus making what has become an iconic, well-known quote.
He says: 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.