Summary: A sermon in the person of Niccodemus, that discusses God's focus is His love for all people and how this changes how Niccodemus sees himself and God, and how Niccodemus relates to others
Today’s sermon has been prepared by Pastor Richard Schwedes of the St Paul's Lutheran Church Sydney for us.
It is based on the Gospel reading of John 3:14-21.
If you ever thought you were confident that you know everything that you need to know about God, then I have a story for you.
My name is Niccodemus.
I thought I really knew God.
I had diligently studied the writings of what many of you know as the Old Testament. In fact, I can recite not just a verse or two, but many chapters. I was pretty sure I knew what God expected and how he operated. You see, I was part of a special group of people called a Pharissee. Now we are special people, set apart to know and help others know about what God expects. We had the nick name, ‘experts in the law’ because if anyone needed to know about God and His law they would come to us. And even if they didn’t come to us, we would go to them and let them clearly know what God expected of them.
But on one dark night all this changed.
I had heard about this character Jesus. Jesus had come along out of nowhere, but His reputation was growing. He had been at a wedding that had run out of wine, and He turned the water that was supposed to be used for some ceremonial washing into wine. Who wouldn’t want to know this man?
But He had also upset the local traders at the temple, and at the same time had made some outlandish claims that he was going to destroy the temple, which by the way had been under construction for 46 years, then he had the audacity to say He would rebuild it in 3 days. Then there were the many signs and wonders He performed around the country. No wonder there was a small group of people following him.
But what really intrigued me was how much He knew about God, yet he wasn’t part of any Pharisee team. In fact. He wasn’t part of any respectable group we knew about. Some of my colleagues were very suspicious of Him, they felt He could be a threat to the way we go about life, how we understand God and how much people held us in high regard, even though many of them didn’t really like us. But I was intrigued, because not only did he do all these things, every time he opened his mouth, His understanding and teaching of God was unbelievable, it was like He been sitting with God for centuries.
So, I decided I had to meet him, but I was also worried what my fellow Pharisees would think. So late one night I went looking for him. Fortunately, I found him and the conversation we had changed how I saw God and my view of all people including those questionable foreigners.
This meeting with Jesus altered my life.
I haven’t got time to tell you everything but let me tell you about some of the important things you need to know.
For a start I knew Jesus knew his stuff, he could easily recall many of the old stories of God at work. For instance, He reminded me of an old story of when our ancestors were bitten by deadly snakes in the desert and were dieing, God instructed Moses to make a figure of a poisonous snake and place it on a pole. And God said to Moses anyone who looks at this snake will not die. And the story goes all who followed this instruction lived.
But Jesus wasn’t all about the past, because then He used this story to give me an insight into the future, He talked about our eternal life. He made this unbelievable claim that just like the snake was lifted up and all who followed God’s instructions to look at it would live, He said that the Son of Man, would be lifted up and all who believed in Him would have eternal life.
Now back then, I didn’t fully understand that he was referring to himself, but I was pretty sure He was referring to the Messiah, the one God had already promised us. And when that terrible day happened, when Jesus was lifted on the cross, this conversation came back to me. I looked at Jesus and thought you are being lifted up, I pray that what is happening to you saves me.
This statement that all who believed in the Son of Man who was lifted up would be save, also rocked how I understood God and how I could obtain life forever with Him.
You see I was a very knowledgeable Pharisee. We had no problems in believing that God was giving us life after death, but we were pretty sure that the only way this was possible, was to perfectly do everything God had said. And because we wanted a lot of our fellow Jews with us, it was our duty to tell everyone what was the right thing to do and remind them if they didn’t do the right thing then they had no possibility of having a good life after death.