Summary: LENT 2, YEAR A - This passage is so familiar that our expectations cloud our sight from seeing what is right in front of us. Come and read John 3:16 again as if for the first time, for that’s what it means to be "Born Again".
There is the story of an elderly gentleman who lived in a mid-western town. One day as he
sat on his porch a stranger walk up and said, “Could you tell me about the people who live
in this town? I’m thinking of moving here and want to know if this is a good place to
live.” The elderly gentleman stopped his rocking and asked, “Well first tell me what type
of people are there where you live now?” With a frown on his face the stranger said,
“Well, the children are always making noise and running up and down the streets. The
neighbors are always sticking their noses in other people’s business. And they never leave
you alone.” “Then I’m afraid you would be disappointed here young man,” said the
elderly gentleman, “for the people in this town are just like that.” With a huff the stranger
walked away. Later in the afternoon another stranger approached the elderly gentleman
and said, “Excuse me sir, but could you tell me about the people who live in this town?
My company is moving me here and want to know if this is a good place to live.” The
elderly gentleman stopped his rocking and asked, “Well tell me first what type of people
are there where you live now?” A wide grin appeared on the stranger’s lips and he said,
“Well, the children are great, they are always laughing and having fun as they run up and
down the streets. The neighbors are compassionate and caring and nothing happens that
they don’t know about. And they will never leave you alone.” “Then I’m glad to say that
you would be happy here young man,” said the elderly gentleman, “for the people in this
town are just like that.” And so with a joy filled heart the stranger walked away.
Expectations, we all have them. Expectations make all the difference in the world. Or put
another way, what you expect to see is ultimately what you will get. Expectations can be
good and expectations can be bad. They can help, or they can get in the way. Our
preconceived expectations can cloud our eyes from seeing what is really there. John 3:16 -
Nicodemus - You must be born again. We know the story. We know what to expect.
Nicodemus - sneaking in at night, lest his fellow Pharisees learn of what he has done.
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these miracles
except by the power of God.” Brown nosing it are we Nicodemus! Trying to butter up
the teacher? Don’t you need an apple for that? So Jesus blasts this weaselly Pharisee.
“You must be born again!!!” Ha, Ha - Got Ya! In this version of the story Nicodemus
gets a bad rap. He is not a person. He is a two dimensional bit player who is used to
display Jesus’ obvious superiority. He is seen as a cowardly fool, sneaking around under
cover of darkness. A Pharisee ready to betray his brothers, to the delight of Christians
near and far. We assume that his pharisaic training has trapped him in the letter of the
law. And we can never seem to decide whether he is too learned for his own good, or too
dimwitted to understand about being born again?
That is what the story says isn’t it? Or is it? While it’s often said that Nicodemus meets
Jesus at night to avoid being seen in this unauthorized interview, there is another
interpretation you can make. The rabbis of Nicodemus’s day taught that the Torah was
best studied at night when it was quiet and the distractions of the day had subsided. In
this account of the story, Nicodemus uses his precious study time to expand his search
beyond the standard rabbinical texts. In this view, Jesus himself becomes the book which
Nicodemus willingly explores, mining every word for wisdom and understanding.
Ah expectations, they certainly can cloud our eyes from seeing what is really there. But
I’m not talking about Nicodemus the Jew, I am talking about me and you, the Christian.
What if Necodemus has come to Jesus as a true seeker? Well, that changes everything. If
this is the truth, then Nicodemus recognizes Jesus as coming from God and he seeks out
the one who can reveal to him the true nature of the God of Israel. And, in receiving this
genuine seeker of truth, Jesus doesn’t’ blast him but lays out the ground rules for his
search. To talk about the heavenly father, says Jesus, you must first be born again. To
discuss spiritual things you must first be spiritually alive, born, that is, from above. But
what does born again mean? We know what it means, we know what to expect. A