Summary: A short all-age talk given at a baptism talk where about a third of the congregation were visitors to the church. Jesus already knows your questions and he has the answers; but what would you ask him?
A little boy in Primary school was given some homework – an essay for his teacher and the subject was birth. So he asked his Mum, “Mum. How was I born?” Now, Mum was a bit embarrassed and didn’t know what to say so she blurted out, “Well dear, when we decided we wanted a baby we asked God for one, and then a big bird called a stork brought you through the air and left you on our doorstep.” “Really Mum?” he asked. “Are you sure?” “Yes dear,” she replied. So, the boy then went to his Grandmother and asked her, “Grandma, how was Mummy born?” Now, unfortunately Grandma was also very embarrassed to be asked such a question and so she said, “Well, when Grandpa and I wanted a baby we asked God for one, and then, the next morning, we looked out of the window and there was your Mummy, a tiny little baby, underneath the gooseberry bush.” “What about you Grandma? Were you born in the same way?” Grandma answered, “Yes, that’s right I was.”
“I see,” the boy replied; and he began his essay like this: ‘In the last three generations of my family there has not been a single natural birth’!
In our Bible reading Jesus was not talking about natural birth. He was talking about supernatural birth. It's not something to be frightened of, but it is a supernatural birth because it describes the start of a new life following Jesus.
Nicodemus – I’ll call him Nick; Nick visited Jesus because he could see that Jesus had come from God. Now, Nick was an important and very well trained Jewish Religious Studies expert, and he was also on the Temple Council (3: 1-2). He was a bit like a Bishop in the House of Lords.
It seems that he wanted to know more about Jesus and he had questions to ask – and the lovely thing is that Jesus already knew in advance Nick’s ultimate question. Not only that …but Jesus had the answer.
If you could meet Jesus for an evening what would your question be? When we held session one of our first ever Pilgrim Course here on Wednesday I asked everyone, “What would you want to ask Jesus?”
How about you here this morning? Boys and girls, what would you want to ask Jesus?
I have not got all the answers; but Jesus has. Ask him a real question in your heart and in some way he will answer. It may not be what you expect or what you want to hear but I believe in some way he will answer.
Jesus knew Nick’s question and although we’re not told exactly what his question would have been, we hear Jesus’s answer. His answer was a bit of a riddle and it was this: “I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (3:3).
At this point Nick does a double-take. In my mind’s eye I imagine Nick must’ve been scratching his head, scratching his beard, grinning from ear to ear and wondering, “What are you talking about Jesus?” “Surely a man or a woman cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born” (3:4)!
If I set off a party popper the streamers can’t go back into the case all by themselves, ready to be popped again, can they? 45 years after my birth I can’t somehow have a chat with my Mum to see if it would be OK for her to go into labour with me again, can I?
But Jesus was not talking about natural birth. Jesus was talking about our need to be re-born, re-booted, re-started, and re-connected. Nick thought that he had all the qualifications that he needed to get to heaven and to see the Kingdom of God, but Jesus was saying, “No, Nick. You don’t. Knowledge is not the thing. Status is not the thing. Church attendance is not the thing.”
So, here is the thing for Nick then and us now, including Oscar as he grows up. Jesus wants us all to have a relationship with him and in order to do that a new life with Jesus, a new life in Jesus has to begin. New-life, new birth, re-birth; born from above.
I mean it does sound daft doesn’t it? It is a riddle, but Jesus often used parables and riddles so that people would have to think it through and make a decision about whether they were going to pursue him and follow him and obey him or not; and I guess that’s my question to you: Have you thought it through? Have you really, truly thought about the life of Jesus, the words of Jesus, the healings and miracles of Jesus and the death of Jesus on the cross and the amazing life-changing Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? Have you thought it through? And what are you going to do about it, on earth?