Reflection on the Gospel of John 3: 1-17, Second Sunday of Lent: March 5, 2023

The Gospel of 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.”

Let us Pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, you know that we are set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us such strength and protection, to support us in all danger, and carry us through all temptations; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fortunately, we don’t have to sneak out at night to listen to the Gospel and to be in the presence of God and His son. In John 3, we have one of the most well-known conversations in all of the Bible. One of the leaders of Israel, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, came to Jesus at night for a private conversation. In many ways, however, it’s actually a conversation between God and all of mankind. These verses contain some absolutely essential truths of life. These can be seen as the following: We need to be undivided in our devotion to God and to Jesus Christ. We need to obey God’s commands and not make a practice of sinning. We need to love God and to love others as God so loved the world. And remember God saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. These are some truths that are absolutely essential to understand, and that God expects us to understand regarding our eternal future. What does God want to do through the power of the Holy Spirit at the depth of our lives according to John’s gospel? Forgive our sins for one thing. Give us and our community the courage to live with joy and purpose for someone other than ourselves  for another. Give us peace and the assurance of eternal life for yet another.                                                                                                                                     Most of us know that it is in the dark where we will least likely get caught or found out by others. And I think this is why Nicodemus chooses to go to Jesus at night in today’s Gospel passage in John. It is in this darkness where nobody would be able to see where he is going and find out what he is up to. Have you ever had to go in the night to accomplish something you did not want others to know about or you didn’t want to get caught doing it? So why was Nicodemus so secretive? We still need to understand why Nicodemus came to meet with Jesus by night. Nicodemus was a powerful and wealthy man. Not only was he a Pharisee, one of a group of around 600 who had pledged to uphold the purity of the faith, he was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews. We know that he was wealthy because when Joseph of Arimathea acquired Jesus’ body, Nicodemus turned up with a hundred-pound weight of expensive spices. Did he come by night as he didn’t want anyone to know about his meeting with Jesus or maybe there was another reason. Here was a man who seemed to have everything, status, and wealth yet he was troubled in his soul and comes to Jesus seeking light through the darkness. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night along his fevered mind’s winding roads. In John’s Gospel, night is a symbol for the life that results when one rejects Jesus, refuses to receive him, and believe in him.       The first statement of Nicodemus is a confession that Jesus is a teacher who has come from God because “no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God”. On the surface this may sound like authentic faith. But does what Nicodemus speak fall short of genuine faith. John says that many in Jerusalem believed in Jesus because they saw the signs that he was doing. For John, this type of faith falls short of what genuine faith ought to be. John goes on to say that Jesus did not entrust himself to such believers, because he knew what was in people’s beliefs. We can see that Nicodemus who is still named as a Pharisee makes a not very powerful defense of Jesus, which suggests that that nighttime encounter hadn’t fully persuaded him about Jesus but at the same had clearly influenced him. It is a little more difficult for us to be fully convinced about Jesus as we only have what is written and the testimony of those who were with Him. Even though this is what we have, our faith in the Gospel and our understanding is the basis for our true faith. Faith that the last verses of this Gospel really says it all.

“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.”

Let us Pray: Lord, grant us simplicity of faith And a generosity of service that gives without counting cost A life overflowing with Grace poured out from the One Who gave everything that we might show The power of love to a broken world And share the truth from a living Word Lord, grant us simplicity of faith and a yearning to share it. This we pray in the of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

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