“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:17; Trinity Sunday; 5/27/18
Questions…We’ve all got a lot of them! Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why do some people hear “Yanni”, while other people hear “Laurel” even when it is the same sound byte? Many of these questions have answers, like there is water vapor in the air that reflects blue light, and chlorophyll in the grass which reflects the green light, and we think we hear Yanni or Laurel because of the sound frequency that particular people normally hear.
But, there are other times that there are just not easy answers. Sometimes, you need to dig, really dig into the question and go right to the source. You can’t just “google it” or “you tube it” to get the answer. They are deeper mysteries. You have to hear it from the source. You have to hear the reasons and the motivation behind the answer, to be able to understand.
Well in an age way before google, and way before youtube, and thank God that it was, our text from the Gospel of John shows us that Nicodemus had a question or two, and he wanted to go straight to the source. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He had probably heard of Jesus for quite some time. Jesus had been performing miracles all throughout the land. Turning water into wine, healing a paralyzed man, giving hearing to the deaf, and sight to the blind. In addition, Jesus had been teaching multitudes of people. Why was Jesus doing these things, Nicodemus probably wondered?
And what is more, Nicodemus was on the ruling council of the Jewish people, called the Sanhedrin. There were some others who were also on that council, especially the High Priest, Caiaphas, and his father in law, Annas, who were furious about Jesus. They wanted Jesus dead! They were Sadducees, and they didn’t believe in miracles. They thought Jesus was a fraud. But, Nicodemus wasn’t so sure. Some things that Jesus did probably tugged at his heart. Things like healing the sick, and the lame, and the blind. Certain things that the prophet Isaiah had spoken about the Messiah, that seemed to closely match what Jesus was doing.
So, Nicodemus decided he needed to go to the Source Himself, Jesus. He likely waited until dark, so no one else would see Him, because Jesus was so controversial. And he began saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” That was the statement, but the questions behind it really are, “Jesus, who are you? And just why have you come?”
But, Jesus, the Master Teacher, wouldn’t give those answers quite yet. At least not without some background. He said, “Truly, truly I say to you unless one is born again, He cannot see the kingdom of God.” You won’t really get me, (Nicodemus) you won’t really understand Me, Jesus is saying, unless you’re born again (born from above.) You need a change of mind and heart, Nicodemus!
What is this, Nicodemus wondered. “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” This defies human logic. I don’t understand. So, Jesus responds, “Truly, truly I say to you unless one is born of water and the Spirit He cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Before you can understand, Nicodemus, you need to change. You were born of the flesh. You were born covered in sin. You need to have a change to be able to understand. And that change comes through water and the Spirit. It comes through Baptism, where your sins are forgiven, and you become a child of God and a temple of the Holy Spirit. It’s then that you will begin to understand.
And that is where we all begin too. Because like Nicodemus, we must change. The Bible teaches, that we also were covered in sin, spiritually blind, dead, even enemies of God. Like Nicodemus, we, needed to be born again, born from above, through baptism. We, could not understand the Kingdom of God, or why Jesus has come. But, now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we see!
We see that sin has a way of destroying us, like serpents in the wilderness. We would be lost forever, wiped out, and destroyed eternally in hell. But God has the solution, the perfect cure. He sent His Son, Jesus, out of love as our Savior. So here are the answers Nicodemus had been waiting for all along. He wondered who Jesus was and why He came. And Jesus responds, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
There’s a reason that this passage, John 3:16 has become the most famous passage in the New Testament of all time. (Sometimes we have become so familiar with it, that we take it for granted.) But, this passage states a truth that we all need to know so well. It needs to be repeated again and again. For God so loved the world, that He gave. His only Son! God loves the people of this world! He doesn’t love the sin! But, He loves all people, sinners like you and me. He loves us so much that He gave His precious only Son, to die the death that we deserved, so that we, through faith, would not perish, but have eternal life.
Today on this Memorial Day weekend, we remember those who have given their life for the sake of our country. And we thank God for them. But, on a far, far greater level, we thank God for sending His only Son, Jesus for the sake of the whole world, people of all times and places, that their sin would be paid for, and through faith in Him, they would be saved.
But, sometimes this truth of God’s love, is hard to fathom. It’s like a great mystery. Why would God love us so much? And what may be more for us to fathom. Why would He love all the people of this world—even those who hate Him? I’ll just simply say, that’s who He is. That’s what He’s all about! Go to the source—in the Bible. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
Today, we also celebrate the Holy Trinity—One God, yet three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although we cannot completely understand how three are one, we can go to the source of the Bible and clearly see, the work of the Father, who sent His Son, Jesus, who gives us the Holy Spirit, so that we may believe in Jesus and be saved.
Oh, we may have many questions in life. Some that are easily answered, and others that need to be researched more fully. Others that we will never fully understand in this life. But, let us never forget the beautiful answer that Nicodemus first heard, in that intimate room with Jesus, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
God grant it…