Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gospel test for Sunday 3 June 2012

John 3:1-17

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 

"Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

1 comment:

  1. I wonder why writer of John’s gospel made a point of noting that Nicodemus “came to Jesus by night?” As a “teacher of Israel,” a Pharisee, a religious official he was supposed to be knowledgeable, enlightened if you will. But Nicodemus was confused; he didn’t understand what was going on. Nicodemus was in the dark. Something must have stirred inside him, something he could not explain or ignore. He must have felt compelled to meet and speak with Jesus to ask him, “How can these things be?” I imagine Nicodemus shaking his head and screwing up his eyes, “(Who) can do these things… apart from the presence of God?... How can anyone be born after having grown old?” Nicodemus would have believed that encounters with God were only supposed to happen in the Temple, but here was this Jesus walking all over the countryside and doing things that cannot be done “apart from the presence of God.” I can almost hear Nicodemus thinking, “Jesus is an ordinary man, not even a temple priest. “How can these things be?” “ I can almost see Nicodemus with his hands clutching his head trying to grasp the light in his darkness.

    The thing is, bumping into God in the dark simply does not make sense. Encounters with the Divine do not sort into neat intellectual categories and groups. When the Light of Christ shines in the midst of our dark minds (and hearts) reason fails and so Jesus instructs, “Do not be astonished…” Do not let your emotional reaction to this unreasonable experience prevent you from recognizing God’s presence. Do not let your darkness stop you from believing what you “see,” and acting to align your life with your belief.

    Which raises a tricky question; “What does it mean to believe?” For me there are three aspects or dimensions of belief. First I notice something compelling. It attracts my intellect or stirs my spirit. Second there is recognition and intellectual assent to the thing I believe. And lastly, I consent and take my stand with it, which of course is problematic. The problem with taking a stand with my newfound belief is that there is every chance I am going to have to think, feel or act in some new way in order to align my life with it. Change.

    That was the situation with Nicodemus. He was attracted to Jesus; something stirred inside him and compelled him to seek out Jesus in the dark. Nicodemus recognized that “…no one can do these signs that you (Jesus) do apart from the presence of God." And at this point his belief faltered and Nicodemus slipped back into the dark. He retreated to his Temple life, the only place he believed he could encounter God. It wasn’t until after Jesus was dead that Nicodemus took the third step of belief. When Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimethea to anoint and prepare Jesus’ body for burial he stepped into the light, aligned his actions with his belief that Jesus was the Son of God. Then Nicodemus truly believed.