Gospel reading: John 3:1-17
Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews, a pharisee. He believed in strict following of the laws. I am sure he had heard all of the talk both good and bad about Jesus. This Jesus was doing all of these signs (we refer to them as miracles) and Nicodemus wanted to get to the bottom of this. Was Jesus the real deal? Was he the long awaited messiah.
Jesus tells him, “no one can see the kingdom of god without being born from above.” Nicodemus must be a literalist because he replies that it is impossible to reenter your mothers womb. We also know that Jesus tends to pepper his messages with metaphors and that he is talking about a spiritual birth but Nicodemus is mired in his literalism. Jesus then refers to the spirit as being like the wind. You can feel it as it passes. You can hear it. You can see its effect but you cannot literally see it. Nicodemus still doesn't get it and Jesus becomes frustrated. He says, “ Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things!”
Near the end of this passage Jesus says, “everyone who believes in him will not perish but may have eternal life. God did not send the son of man into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
This message is pretty clear and I think Nicodemus really on some level did understand but part of him was still attached to the old way of doing things. After all, he was highly respected and Jesus of Nazareth was upsetting the apple cart. Nicodemus has a lot to lose if he becomes a follower of Jesus. We never find out if Nicodemus ever truly becomes a follower but later in John he does defend Jesus to the pharisees.
Today, Jesus is still upsetting the apple cart. We, like Nicodemus, know that Jesus has come from God and that he should be listened to but we make up so many excuses why we can't or won't. After all, it is so hard to love someone when that person is so unlikable. It is so hard to not tell a really good story about someone while it is still fresh gossip. Or to put things off. I will go visit that sick person tomorrow or the next day when it is more convenient. We have so many reasons for staying in the same patterns of behavior don't we. Believe me, I am including myself.
I firmly believe that God is reaching out his hand to us. We need to reach out to God as well. In our bible study on Tuesday one of us asked the question, why do bad things happen to good people. That question comes up quite often. Let me read you a story that probably won't even come close to answering that very deep question.
A woman named Brandi finds herself in dire trouble. She invested all her inheritance and now her business has gone bankrupt. Brandi is in serious financial trouble. She's so desperate that she decides to ask God for help. This is unusual for her. Brandi has never prayed before, but if ever she needed the Lord before, she needs him now.Brandi begins to pray... "God, please help me. I've lost my business and if I don't get some money, I'm going to lose my house as well. Please let me win the lotto." Lotto night comes and somebody else wins it. Brandi again prays... God, please let me win the lotto! I've lost my business, my house and I'm going to lose my car as well." Lotto night comes and Brandi still has no luck.Once again, she prays... "My God, why have you forsaken me?? I've lost my business, my house, and my car. My children are starving. I have never asked you for help before and I have always been a good Christian. PLEASE just let me win the lotto this one time so I can get my life back in order."Suddenly there is a blinding flash of light as the heavens open and Brandi is confronted by the voice of God Himself. "Brandi, meet Me halfway on this. Buy a ticket."
Jesus has high expectations of us and his teachings are very clear. Our faith in Jesus and our following of his teachings come with a promise and that promise is to be with him in God's kingdom. Entering God's kingdom is like winning the lottery. The cost of the ticket is practicing your Christianity by loving God and loving your neighbor. The only difference is this lottery could have a lot of winners.