Scripture: John 3:1-21
When Anna was in grade 1, I think it was, she brought home a plant they had started in class. It was a nice little plant in a little cup with pretty little flowers.
Our reaction to bringing home this plant was, “Isn’t that nice… it’s going to die!”
You see, we generally suck at plants. In the 20 years Bev and I have been married, we’ve managed to keep dogs and children alive. Plants? Not so much.
I suppose the advantage dogs and kids have over plants is that when we forget to feed them, they remind us. Plants have no vocal cords so are unable to audibly communicate their need for nourishment. And we don’t tend to look at the plants often enough to notice them wilting towards death.
Over the years we’ve had a number of plants in our home… notice I said “had.” Sadly they all didn’t make it.
Anna’s little plant, to this day is still alive. How? We are not entirely sure. But it still pops out those pretty little flowers now and again, even after periods when we’re sure we’ve finally managed to kill it.
The kids still seem to be thriving, and the dogs were quite fine while we had them. Their death was not due to our neglect, but other unrelated health reasons. Just to be clear.
For some reason, plants tend to be a little more resilient than other life forms. If you forget to feed them, they will often just go dormant, not die. Sure, some of them may go beyond what we can bring them back from, but if you catch it soon enough, the plant can return to health with proper care.
Funny things those plants. Some of them just keep coming back. Almost like being reborn.
I’m sure some of us wish we could be reborn like that just trying to get out of bed in the morning!
Maybe we can be reborn! What is Jesus teaching us today?
Jesus has been approached one night by a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a member of the ruling Jewish council, he is an important man, likely a powerful man.
Now we aren’t sure why he came to Jesus at night, there are some speculation as to why this is. Is he trying to hide his visit? Maybe he was out all day doing Jewish council work and this was his only opportunity? Who really knows? But for whatever reason, he has come to talk to Jesus.
Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus has come from God, based on the simple fact that no one could be doing what Jesus is doing unless they were from God. He’s been hearing about miracles Jesus has performed. He’s been hearing about what Jesus is teaching. Nicodemus has no doubt that God is with Jesus. But he stops short of calling him the Messiah, and instead calls him a Rabbi, a teacher.
Jesus wastes no time in getting to the heart of the matter when he responds to Nicodemus. He says, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)
Nicodemus seems confused by this statement, which I’m sure many people would be. When someone says “born” you automatically think about the natural birthing process, which Nicodemus does. So he asks for clarity. “How can someone go back into their mother’s womb and be born again?”
This is a good question. Me? I’m 6’2, I’m pretty sure I don’t fit any more.
Jesus is of course not talking about the birth of our bodies, he’s talking about our spirits.
“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6)
Jesus is telling Nicodemus he needs to be reborn in his spirit.
This is what is at the heart of faith. We need to know the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ within ourselves so that we may be with God. Jesus says it himself! We need the Holy Spirit!
Nicodemus still doesn’t understand.
Jesus asks him how can he not understand this. He is a teacher of the Jewish faith, a leader, and he cannot understand the Spirit of God? Jesus has been doing the work of God all over the place. People are being healed. People are turning their lives around. People are flocking to him just to hear his messages, his teachings. It seems like a lot of people are figuring it out, they are understanding what he is doing and saying.
Yet, this teacher, this expert of Scripture, he does not understand.
Nicodemus seems to want to understand how things work in terms of the heavenly kingdom. Yet Jesus says he can’t grasp the simpler concepts he’s sharing about living on the earth, so how can Nicodemus understand something much more complex, more beyond human understanding like the heavenly kingdom?
So Jesus breaks it down into something maybe he can understand. Now Nicodemus has said God sent Jesus. Nicodemus began the whole discussion by affirming this fact. He didn’t say Jesus was FROM heaven, he just acknowledged God SENT Jesus.
Jesus takes that a step further by saying no one has ever gone to heaven except the one who came FROM heaven. Which is himself.
Jesus then says there will be a powerful sign, just like Moses lifting up the snake in the wilderness as a sign to the people of Israel, Jesus will also be lifted up. He is of course, referring to the cross. And through this sign, through his death on the cross, everyone who believes in him will have eternal life with God.
Well, that leads us into probably the best known verse in the entire Bible. If it’s not the best known, it certainly is the most quoted.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Now, I think we’ve all heard this one haven’t we? I know a lot of you when I started those first few words, you probably said the rest of them right along with me under your breath.
But the message does not end right there. We should keep reading to see what else is said.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:17-18)
Jesus is not here to condemn Nicodemus. He’s did not come to condemn us either. Jesus is here to save Nicodemus. He has come to save us as well.
If we deny the saving power of Jesus Christ, we are condemned, but it’s not Jesus who condemns us. We condemn ourselves.
Jesus has come plainly, and as clearly as possible, to let us know we are loved by God and we are welcome to be part of his family.
If I wake up tomorrow and decide that all the preservatives in food are killing us, and I don’t want anything to do with any of it anymore, what happens if I decide I’m never going to eat again?
Well, in a few weeks I’ll be dead because my body will have exhausted all the energy I can provide for it. If I stop believing in our food chain and give up eating, I will have been condemned to death.
But who condemns me? Is it the farmers, or the stores, or anyone else who touches my food? Are they the ones who condemned me to death?
No! I chose to condemn myself by not believing in the need for food.
If we choose to not believe in the saving power of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for our sins, he is not the one who is condemning us. We have condemned ourselves by not accepting the life and the love he freely offers us. By denying Christ, we have chosen death over life.
Let’s keep reading, these are verses we don’t usually pick up on because we think it’s all right there in John 3:16.
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:19-21)
Boy there sure is a lot of stuff coming out of the darkness over the last little while. In 2 days this past week, 3 major Canadian male politicians have had stuff exposed about themselves which has cost them their high profile positions. Stuff has come out which women should never have to deal with from men in positions of power and authority. Or in any circumstance for that matter.
I really don’t understand what caused them to do such things, if they are indeed true allegations. The court of public opinion is one thing, but there’s also proper channels which will need to be navigated. However, it seems there’s enough evidence to at least harm their reputations pretty seriously.
This is what sin does to people. Sin causes us to hurt other people, even people we care about, and it causes significant harm to ourselves as well.
So we try and hide our sin. But we can only hide it for so long. Sin is ugly and nasty. Sin is infectious as well. Sin works its way into our lives and infects everything it touches. It impacts our relationships, our families, our careers, even our relationship with God.
Sin can only hide for so long before it is exposed for the evil it is.
What a difference it makes if we live in the light of Jesus Christ. What a difference it makes if we seek to follow God’s way first and foremost in our lives. If we live in the light, then we have nothing to hide because God is in the light. And Jesus Christ is that light who has come to shine in our hearts so we may know the love of God.
Jesus Christ walked on this earth so that people… us… have the opportunity to turn away from the darkness of sin and live in the light. So that we may be reborn in our spirits by the Holy Spirit of God, sent by Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of God, and have eternal life with our Father in heaven.
This is the power of the cross which lifted our Saviour high to be exalted above all other names and bring salvation to all of humankind.
Are you reborn? Are you like the flower that blossoms even when it looks like death and darkness has overcome you? Have you come to the one who nurtures life and brings hope?
Do you know the saving power of Jesus Christ? He is waiting for you to give you his Holy Spirit, and life reborn through its power.
Let us pray,
We thank you for your sacrifice on the cross so that we may find life in you. Help us to receive this incredible gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and learn to live in the light you have for us.
We recognize, Jesus, you have come to save us from ourselves, so help us to find the courage to follow you and your ways so we may be saved.
May this church be refreshed by your Holy Spirit, may we be reborn in your likeness, offering light, the light of God, to this piece of creation you have entrusted to our care.
We ask these things in the saving power of your Holy Name. Amen and amen.