Bibliography: Indiana Jones In Search of the Holy Grail
There once was a man named Nicodemus who was a great religious leaders of the Jews.
That’s how John begins to tell us the story of the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus
For the next two weeks we will be looking at biblical people who encountered Christ and how their lives were changed by the experience. This is ironic, because from John’s story, we have no indication that Nicodemus was changed by the encounter at all. And it is doubly ironic, because of the biblical characters we have examined on Monday evenings – beginning with 2 men and 2 women whose lives were transformed by the healing power Jesus, to an unconventional and outcast woman, and a short statured man we will meet next week – we probably resemble Nicodemus most of all.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He was a religious leader in the church. Some would suggest that he was a well respected leader within the Jewish community.
Some of us may not see ourselves in such a way – as a leader within the church. Nevertheless, even if we might not define ourselves that way, we find ourselves here this evening, in church, at an unconventional hour and I daresay that puts us one up on some of the others from our community.
In any case, its not in that way that we necessarily resemble Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was also an inquisitive fellow. He had lots of questions. He went to go see Jesus for a midnight discussion. But its not even as inquisitive people asking questions of our faith that we most resemble Nicodemus.
A night full of questions probably doesn’t seem so strange to us. Each of us can think of those dark nights when we’ve wrestled with problems, asking God why. But that sort of thing isn’t what’s necessarily reflected in Nicodemus’ midnight excursion.
Coming to see Jesus in the middle of the night signified something in Jesus’ day. It was an issue of authority. It signified a lack of respect and honor. If you wanted to acknowledge someone, pay them respect, validate their actions, support their view point, truly inquire of them, ask legitamate questions, you would do that by approaching that person in public in daylight.
Going to see Jesus in the middle of the night is a disrespectful, slight of hand thing to do. Coming in the middle of the night would suggest that Nicodemus isn’t truly a seeker. His intentions are not honorable ones. We are left to question why would Nicodemus approach Jesus in this way?
Nicodemus’ words would suggest that his intentions are otherwise. He is impressed by the miracles Jesus has been able to perform.
At least that’s what his words say. The time of day he chose to approach Jesus would tell us something different. Coming to visit Jesus in the middle of the night would suggest that Nicodemus has no faith in Jesus’ claims or actions, even though Nicodemus word’s would suggest otherwise. This has something to do with how we resemble Nicodemus. You might say no. I hope to explain how I see otherwise.
Why does Nicodemus approach Jesus in this contradictory manner? Some would say that Nicodemus really was a seeker who is troubled by Jesus and his actions, that Nicodemus approached Jesus to clarify a few things, to help his unbelief.
Others believe that Nicodemus’ midnight meeting is one of trickery; that he comes as one of the religious leaders, as a Pharisee who wishes to trick Jesus with is words.
Nicodemus’ comment that the miracles Jesus performs are a sign that Jesus comes from God, is leading and misleading with the intention of trapping Jesus into making a blasphemic statement. This might be so, but Jesus doesn’t fall for it, if this is the case.
Through their conversation, we see a lack of understanding on the part of Nicodemus who constantly tries to make sense of Jesus’ words.
Within us all, within the world, within our society, we are most like Nicodemus. We try to reason and make sense of God logically and reasonably. We try to reason this whole Christianity thing out. We try to make sense of it all, understand it, reduce our faith to logical and reasonable explanations. It is in this way that we and seekers searching for meaning, most resemble Nicodemus, when we limit our faith to what we can understand.
Though Nicodemus claims to know that Jesus comes from God because of the “signs” (miracles) Jesus performs, Jesus knows proof through signs is no way to know God. If you are looking for a sign, looking for proof, you are missing all that God is.
Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge Nicodemus’ comment. Rather, he tells Nicodemus that he must be born again. This seems like a nonsensical statement in response to Nicodemus. But it got Nicodemus’ attention.
Now how can this be, Nicodemus wants to know. How can one possibly be born again?
See…we are like Nicodemus. We try to make sense of this. We want to know that, too. What is Jesus talking about and why is that an appropriate response to Nicodemus.
Jesus is speaking metaphorically of a different kind of birth than a physical one. Jesus is talking about being reborn spiritually, and being born in such a way that cannot be completely understood.
Even we, Christians and perspective Christians, come, I think, believing we understand what Jesus means. We think Jesus refers to that moment when our faith is born, when we recognize Jesus as our Lord and Savior - of that moment of conversion.
I would suggest to you that although this is one understanding of a spiritual rebirth, being born again is more than that.
Because understanding that being born again as the conversion moment in our faith is short lived, and focuses on what WE do in a relationship with Jesus.
It helps us to know that the word ‘again’ ascribed to Jesus in the Greek doesn’t have an equivelant in English. In the Greek it means both ‘a second time’ and ‘from above’ simultaneously.
It has to do not only with what we do by having faith (being born again) but also with what God does (being born from above.) It has to do with the mystery of the faith. It has to do with what happened on the cross.
Jesus tells Nicodemus, JOH 3:14 “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up…”
He’s talking about being lifted up on the cross. Its one of those things that doesn’t make sense. A despicable, horrible form of execution becomes an exaltation of life and love. That someone, particularly an all powerful and perfect God, would express love for us through death doesn’t make sense. How can we possibly understand the power of a relationship based on such a love.
We are like Nicodemus, because we try to limit our faith to what we can understand and know. Nicodemus believes in signs, not in transformative love. We, like Nicodemus, begin with what we can explain, what we can logically and reasonably accept, and we - like Nicodemus - have trouble moving beyond that point in our relationship.
Ask yourself something. When you hear that someone has a terminal illness, what do you expect to happen? When you find yourself in a financial mess, what do you expect the outcome to be?
When was the last time you really prayed for a miracle and truly believed in the possibility?
What would our lives be like, if we were to take that part of our life, that aspect we’ve struggled to control on our own, that calling that God is nagging us about... and completely open ourselves up to the power of Christ to work within us?
What would it be like to believe in a miracle, and not try to understand it?
I’ll admit it - I’m as hesitant as the next person to believe it can truly happen - to believe the terminally ill won’t die, to believe financial struggles can be resolved beyond the working of my own hands, to believe my deepest struggle isn’t something I have to take care of myself.
It is so tempting to believe in Jesus, and go right on taking care of my own life.
What would it be like if we were to stop working in resistance AGAINST God and begin working WITH God?
We might say we believe in Christ, but do we live that way? What have we got that we’ll only take to Jesus in the middle of the night, rather than the light of day?
What would happen to us if we had enough courage and faith to bring our hope to Jesus truly and completely in the brightness of day?
Harrison Ford and Sean Connery play together as father and son in the third movie of the Indiana Jones trilogy.
Maybe you remember that it is the holy grail they are searching for. The holy grail, Arthurian legend has it, is the cup Jesus used at the Lord’s Supper. To drink from it is to have eternal life. In order to get it, Indiana Jones must face three challenges.
The third one is called the path of God. It involves a leap of faith.
The ancient writings Henry Jones, Indiana’s father finds reads this way:
“Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.”
Indiana Jones must stand upon the head of the lion statue and jump across an immense canyon.
The lion’s head...
Its a stone statue in the movie, but how often do we feel like our greatest problem has us standing precariously on a lion’s head.
A leap off the head we fear will drop us right into the lion’s mouth.
And Indiana echos our doubts and fears, “Noone can make that jump! Its impossible!” he says.
His father calls him to have faith and believe. Indy gets up on the stone statue and jumps. Only then does he come to realize that there is a path, a stone path, a bridge painted to resemble the canyon below. He throw’s sand across the bridge and from there he can see the rest of the say.
Many times we will find ourselves standing on the lion’s head and God is calling to us, wanting to know if we will open ourselves up and take that leap of faith.
God calls us to be open to possibility of transformation in our lives. Jesus put it to Nicodemus this way:
JOH 3:8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
We can’t see the wind, but we know it is there. The same is true for the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
The question is, will we truly believe?
Tonight, the invitation of Nicodemus is this: We must ask ourselves the question, “What is truly possible in our lives through the power of God?”
My inclination is, that like the path across the canyon, we can’t even begin to imagine the possibilities - how our lives will be changed - where we will be and what we will be doing. What are the new possibilities for our lives?
Secondly, we must ask ourselves, “Will we take that leap from the lion’s head, open oursevles up to new possibilities of God working through us, and take that leap of faith?”
In Jesus name, Amen.