Summary: 2nd in the series "Conversations With Jesus." Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be born again. This sermon examines John 3:16 as the "Gospel in a Nutshell."
It was March 18. Leanne tried not to think about the fact that Melvin would have been 39 today. The face of the man driving the van flashed in her mind. She tried not to feel the anger. Once more the scream of brakes, the crash and then the silence replayed itself in her memory. She thought of the whispers in Melvin’s ear through a maze of tubes and machines, words that she could only hope he somehow had heard. Leanne remembered having to tell her two boys about the nightmare and trying to support them in their grief as she struggled with her own.
She remembered the sound of the blades whipping through the evening sky as the helicopter carried Melvin’s organs to others whose very life depended on his final gift. Who were they? Would she ever get to see them? The recipient of Melvin’s heart had written twice in the year and a half since the transplant. Leanne had finally found the courage to answer and admit that she longed to hear that beautiful heart beat again.
There was no way she could have known that at that very moment, John Meinhardt and his wife Jan were signing release forms to reveal their identity to the donor family.
John’s head swam with memories too: he could almost feel the mix of terror and elation hearing the nurse’s casual statement that a heart had been found. He wanted to live so much, but he had struggled with guilt knowing that for him to live someone else would die. He remembered the nurse walking away and his wife Jan slipping under the covers and holding him. She had kissed his heart good bye. Together they had prayed for the doctors and their future and surrendered the outcome to God.
Later that night a small light appeared in the evening sky and soon the roar of whipping chopper blades. Jan remembered the tears watching that blue Igloo cooler being lowered from the helicopter and carried into the hospital on a dolly. She had stopped the survival flight team and dropped to her knees to kiss the cooler. She prayed with their children for the success of the surgery and for family of the donor.
And now John was signing the papers to meet that family that so many times they had wrapped in gratitude. Soon John and Leanne were choking back tears as they spoke on the phone "When can we meet?" John asked. "How about in an hour at Latina’s Pizza?" Leanne replied.
An hour later Leanne laid her head upon John’s chest and heard the heart she had loved for so long, Melvin’s heart. The heart which had given new life to John. (Jan Meinhardt, http://www.rjwitte.com/changeofheart/May_1999_donor.htm)
New Life. That’s the topic for today. A man came to Jesus in the middle of the night and Jesus spoke to him about his need for new life. As John lay in a hospital bed he understood that a new heart was what he needed. When Nicodemus came to Jesus, he wasn’t at all sure what he needed but Jesus helped him to find the truth.
Included in out text today is the best known and most widely memorized verse in all of Scripture, John 3:16. It contains the Gospel in a nutshell.
Today we’re going to look at that verse and the meeting which prompted it, as in each of these messages throughout the book of John I’d like to suggest that the words of Jesus to us today are the same as his words to those he spoke to face to face, two thousand years ago, in this case, to Nicodemus. And today I’d like to concentrate on the essentials of the central message of the Bible, the Good News about Jesus. What we often call the Gospel message.
The story begins with man’s...
1-3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
Nicodemus has come by night, no doubt, because he doesn’t want the other Pharisees to know he’s coming to Jesus. In chapter 2 Jesus had already begun to make himself unpopular by causing a scene in the temple courts. Nevertheless, Nicodemus is drawn to him and says, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." Does it seem odd to you that He would take such a risk just to say this? I think it did to Jesus too, who, as we saw in last week’s conversation with Jesus, skips right to the heart of the matter and shares the truth that Nicodemus has really come to hear whether he knows it or not.