Summary: Nicodemus made the message of grace so complicated he couldn’t understand it. We sometimes do the same thing. Yet, the message is as simple now as it has ever been. Christ is received by grace through faith.
Paonia United Methodist Church
March 30, 2003
As we continue into our Lenten season,
I am called to remind you of what Lent is about.
Lent is the time, when we as a church
Are reminded of own sinful nature and humanity.
It is a time when we remember that we will
Return to the dust and ashes that we were formed from.
It is a time to reclaim our dependence upon the God
That gives us life.
The Gospel story chosen to remind us of this chasm
That stands between us and God is one that I am sure you
Are all familiar with.
It is perhaps the most popular in the entire Bible.
Of course I am talking about John 3:16…
The very essence of the Christian faith.
But, before we get there, I want to remind you that these texts
Are not formed in a vacuum.
They don’t just show up out of thin air.
This particular text came from another man on a journey
Much like the Lenten journey we are on now together.
His name was Nicodemus…
And, like us, he was questioning his own mortality
And sinful nature.
He too was seeking the kingdom of God.
Under the cover of night, we find that Nicodemus,
A Jewish Rabbi, that has come to question Jesus
and the miracles that he has performed.
Now, already I think we have our first clue about the text.
Our author made sure to tell us he came at night.
Why is this important?
Well, nothing shows up in Scripture by accident.
Nicodemus, is in the dark… literally.
He doesn’t understand.
And I think that this is quite purposeful.
Because in John’s Gospel he is referred to not just as teacher but "the teacher",
pointing to his religious authority.
If anyone should know the truth about God and God’s people,
surely it would be this man.
Yet, for all of his wisdom, Nicodemus is in the dark.
Although he recognizes that there is a chasm between himself and God,
He does not know how to reconcile that distance.
It is ironic that this man,
perhaps the most educated of all the Pharisees,
has to go before Jesus and ask him
to explain his teachings.
And Jesus responds…
"I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ’You must be born again.’ 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
And, true to form, Nicodemus misunderstands yet again.
He is still in the dark.
So Jesus has to explain it to him.
That’s what we have here in this passage from John this morning.
Jesus makes God’s extraordinary plan for the world plain enough for
Anyone to understand.
Even this bumbling character who by the world standards
Is brilliant, but by God’s standards is still very
Much in the dark.
14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
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. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."[
This is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are left wondering whether or not
Nicodemus ever understood what it is that Jesus was trying to tell him.
Did he step out of the dark?
Did he understand?
Or did he go away as confused as he was before?
We really do not know.
We aren’t given that part of the story.
But, thankfully, our Gospel writer gives us the story that
We might step out of the darkness ourselves.
Jesus made it plain to Nicodemus over and over again,
But he never quite seemed to get it.