Passage: John 3:1–3:17
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Text: John 3:1-17
Date: March 12th, 2017; 2nd Lent
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
I remember watching a Detroit Tigers game on TV back when I was about 7 years old.
Sitting in the stands behind home plate was a man holding a big sign that had John 3:16 written on it – maybe you too have seen signs like these at sporting events.
Well, this made me curious – which of the players named John on the field were they talking about and what did 3:16 mean?
Was it a reference to stolen bases and home runs? My curiosity consumed me and I had to find out.
I asked my parents and found out that this was a Bible passage. So I grabbed a Bible that we had at home and looked it up.
“Why would someone make a sign like that and bring it to a baseball game?” I wondered.
My parents replied, “So curious people like you would take the time to look it up.”
So it worked. And when I looked up the passage I found the Good News, the Gospel, summed up in its essence, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but hat eternal life” (John 3:16).
That was the answer to my curiosity.
And it was also the answer that Nicodemus got that night when he was curious and went to talk to Jesus - as we heard in our Gospel lesson for this morning.
You can tell that he didn’t really know what to ask Jesus.
Nicodemus had heard stories - about water turned to wine, the deaf being able to hear, the mute speaking, demons being cast out.
Nicodemus, who was a religious leader, wanted to know what all of this was about!
He broke the ice by saying a few flattering things to Jesus. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God. For no one can do these signs which you are doing, if God were not with him” (John 3:2).
He wanted to ask Jesus something, but he didn’t know what it was or how to ask it.
Nicodemus was a learned Pharisee, so he thought he had God all figured out – simply follow the laws that God had given, and the many more that the Pharisees had added to it – and everything would turn out just fine.
But, this man, Jesus, who he could tell came from God, who was he and what was his purpose?
Jesus knew that Nicodemus did not come to see him that evening for simple chit chat, but to find out more about him.
But, rather than simply telling Nicodemus that he is the Son of God - He says, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).
That likely was not what Nicodemus was expecting.
He thought he had his spiritual life in order.
But, now there is this man telling him that not only was his religion of rules and regulations not going to get him into the kingdom of God, but also that the only way he could - was to be born again.
Nicodemus’s next question seems to be a bit sarcastic, even patronizing, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born?” (John 3:4).
Jesus’ reply caused Nicodemus to be even more confused and curious.
He said, “Unless one is born of water and Spirit, he isn’t able to enter the kingdom of God. You see, what is born of flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5).
This turned everything that Nicodemus had come to know about God and about salvation upside down.
And this is the same message that turns everything upside down for most people today too.
In fact, every other religion and philosophy of the world has things figured out the way that Nicodemus had. Do this, and don’t do that, and your fine.
It seems easier to believe that God simply gives us a list of do’s and don’ts, and as long as we stick to it, we will enter the kingdom of heaven.
This is the way the world works – you get what you deserve!
But this is not the way that the kingdom of God works. And thank God, because if it did, we would all receive God’s wrath.
The truth of the matter is that we need to be reborn from above because we were born spiritually dead the first time. We were born sinners.
That is why we suffer in this life. That is why we continue to see terrible things happening on the news.
That is why each and everyone of us continues to struggle with sin.
And ultimately our sin will lead to death.
We endure all of this because we were born spiritually dead.
But God has not left us in this state of being dead – through the Holy Spirit, and the waters of our Baptism, he has given us new life.
We all have been born again from above and that means that we have new life.
Luther tells us in the Small Catechism that receiving new life through baptism “…signifies that the Old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
Being born again from above means that we no longer are slaves to sin.
Being born again from above moves us to love God above all things and to love, forgive, and serve our neighbour.
Being born again from above means that, even though we do face difficult times in this life, we have certain hope and peace.
We heard that poor Nicodemus couldn’t believe it, “How can these things be?” he asked (John 3:9).
And I don’t blame him!
How was he to know that he was talking with the very Son of God?
How was he to know that the man he was talking to had come to earth to shed his blood on the cross for the entire world?
How was he to know that this man he was talking to was going to die and be buried, but rise to life after 3 days?
Well, the same way that each and everyone of us believes and trusts that this is what God has done for us – by being born again in the waters of baptism, by hearing the words of God’s promise, and by having the Holy Spirit open our hearts and minds to believe and receive this most wonderful Good News!
The Good News that, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.