2004-06-17 - Marvel Not
John 3:7 "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' (NAS)
For Nicodemus, the simple truth called to him and still eluded him. He had studied under the finest teachers of the Law. His prayers were as regular and as proper as the clock by which they were measured; morning, midday and evening. His skills of debate were refined by hour upon hour of questioning and reply with his peers and his mentors. But this itinerate Rabbi, from Nazareth of all places, struck a chord deep inside. That chord reverberated inside, an empty place that had never been able to be filled with all the hours of study and the wisdom of his elders.
Taking a considerable risk, his need to fill that hollow space had driven him down dark streets in common clothes. No one who saw him quietly passing from shadow to shadow would know that this was a member of the Council of Elders. If he had been recognized, it would have caused many questions to be raised. His position would be in jeopardy especially if he were caught with this Rabbi Jesus.
And so Nicodemus became an unexpected house guest of Jesus and His disciples. Jesus, as the Son of God, knew that there would be a guest with many questions late this evening. The disciples would be slack-jawed to watch this Doctor of the Law come slipping in through the door. Nicodemus had honest, searching questions, unlike the ones that his fellows would raise. These were not traps set to trick, but probes into a darkness that Nicodemus could not pierce. When Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be born again he is floored. Totally confused, Nicodemus pensively asks how this can be.
Matt 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, "I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. (NAS)
To those who would scoff, or not even entertain the question in their minds, it would never be answered. To those like this man, who would admit that he did not have all the answers, the answer came simply and honestly. "Don't be surprised when I say, 'You must be born again'" (Mike's paraphrase). Jesus must have said it with a smile. The second birth is of the spirit of God. It is a renewal of the spirit of man that died when Adam and Eve sinned millennia ago in the Garden of Eden. Even though all of us are physically alive, we are born dead in spirit. To be born again is simply to have life restored to your spirit. There is no mystical mumbo-jumbo, nothing you or I can do at all in fact, except ask. If you ask with a sincere heart, Jesus has promised not to turn you away.
John 1:11-13 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (NAS)
Over the years before Jesus came, the truth had become buried in laws and interpretations of those rules and guidelines. Since then, there has been much the same happen again. The simplicity of God reaching out to mankind with compassion has been lost to most. To the majority of the world, God is a big "Thou Shalt Not" in the sky. Just what any of us need is one more rule book to follow. Who would want to get mixed up in that? But a God who says:
Matt 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. 30 "For My yoke is easy, and My load is light." (NAS)
This is something totally different. When you have a friend helping, everything is easier.
For those of you who know this compassionate Jesus, give thanks during this celebration of Jesus' birth. Let this Jesus be what shows through Your heart and life to others. If this is not the Jesus you've heard of before and would like to know more, please write to any of us. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have including the question Nicodemus had for Jesus. This could be the best Christmas gift you have ever received.
Lord Jesus, Help us to live out the life of compassion to others that You did. We are not perfect, but help us to better represent You and your grace and mercy to everyone around us. Help those who are seeking, or may be curious to come and ask questions. Give us honest, simple answers to help them understand and experience the new birth that Nicodemus did. Amen.