Summary: Jesus died for us because He loves us and wanted us back.
Well known to us are The Ten Commandments. But less well known are The Paradoxical Commandments? “Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.” “The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.” Ever heard these statements in conversation or in print?
Kent Keith wrote them in the 1960’s during his college days. And over the years, he has been amazed to find them in a variety of places. The one that really caught his attention was in a book on Mother Teresa. It seems that she had them posted in the children’s’ home in Calcutta, India. Keith recently wrote a book on these commandments simply entitled, “Anyway.”
The second commandment featured in the book deals with the issue of motives. “If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives, do good anyway.” And in the chapter which he explains this commandment, he tells the story of his opposition to a move by the student council of his high school to reduce the number of representatives on his school’s student council. He felt that by reducing the number of representatives to a smaller body, the voice of the students would be less likely to be heard.
At first no one spoke out with him in his opposition. And he encountered tremendous opposition from those who wanted this plan passed. In fact, pro-change students would suddenly enter one of Keith’s classrooms and begin debating him with or without the teacher’s permission.
Finally, five or six other students began to agree with Keith and a debate was arranged on the issue. Following the debate, the vote was taken. The plan was defeated by a vote of 1,700 to 400. “Months later,” writes Keith, “the student body president told me that the reorganization plan was a mistake and that she was glad it had failed.”
This event took place in the fall of Keith’s sophomore year. In the spring, he decided to run for student body vice-president because of his desire to get more involved. One of the pro-change leaders, upon seeing his name on the candidate list, remarked to him, “I knew it. You just opposed the reorganization as a way of getting your name out front, so you could run for office. You’re just an opportunist.” Keith was stunned by the accusation because the opposition he faced in the fall led him to believe that he would never be elected or appointed to anything. His motives were called into question.
This past week during our annual state ministries retreat, we had a wonderful communion service and, as we sang prior to and during communion, I began to think about why Jesus did it. Why did Jesus die on the cross for you and me? Why?
What was his motive for dying such a painful and awful death? Why did He do it?
The chapter begins with Nicodemus, a well-educated man, and what today we would probably call a minister. coming privately, and in the evening to talk with Jesus. Over the years, many reasons have been why Nicodemus came at night. But, have we ever considered why did he come at all? Could it have been that He had questions about God?
“Teacher,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are proof enough that God is with you.”
God is with you. Nicodemus did not say, “You are God,” he said, “God is with you.” He told Jesus that God was certainly a part of Jesus’ life. But, he had not yet made the connection that Jesus was God.
Nicodemus had an idea of who God was. But, He did not personally know God. It was all second hand information and experience. It was all based on what he had been taught.
But Jesus’ miracles gave Nicodemus pause for reflection. It raised questions in his mind about the nature and person of God.
As the conversation develops, the lack of understanding and experience becomes more and more pronounced as Jesus makes statements that reveal just how much Nicodemus does not understand and know. So Jesus begins to educate Nicodemus about God’s work and God’s kingdom.
And He educates Nicodemus from his very statement: “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” ask Nicodemus. What does Jesus mean? Why is He trying to say?
He speaks of being “born again” and the work of the Spirit that is required in being born again. But notice that the point of Jesus’ opening statement ties “born again” to the seeing, the experiencing of the Kingdom of God.