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The Second Sunday in Lent (no audio this week)

March 8, 2020 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Lent

Passage: John 3:1–3:17

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†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Murray Keith
Text: John 3:1-17
Date: March 8th, 2020; Second Sunday in Lent; Series A
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • A man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus went to Jesus one night for a discussion.  
  • Nicodemus had heard stories about Jesus - about water turned to wine, the deaf being able to hear, the mute speaking, demons being cast out. 
  • Nicodemus was a religious leader, a master teacher of the Pharisees, and he wanted to know what this was all 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.”  
  • He wanted to ask Jesus something - but he didn’t really know what it was or how to ask it.  He was curious.  He was confused.   
  • Nicodemus, like the other Pharisees, thought he had God and salvation all figured out.  
  • Simply follow God’s Law (and the many more the Pharisees had added to it) and you were all good.
  • But Jesus had shaken up Nicodemus’s understanding of things.
  • Clearly Jesus had come from God – but who was he and what was his purpose?  
  • Jesus knew that Nicodemus did not come to see him that night for simple chit chat, but to find out more about him.  
  • Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  
  • That likely was not what Nicodemus was expecting.  He thought he had his spiritual life in order and under control.  
  • But now there is this man from God telling him that you don’t get into the kingdom of God by following God’s Law, but by being born again. 
  • It’s difficult to tell whether or not Nicodemus’s response to this was serious or not, but I don’t think he was.  
  • His next question seems to be a bit sarcastic, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born?”
  • And 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.”  
  • This turned everything that Nicodemus had come to know about God upside down.  
  • He had learned better than most the list of all of the rules and regulations that he had to follow and he thought he was well on his way to the kingdom of God.  
  • And now he was being told that following all of those rules didn’t get him into heaven - but the only way is to be born of water and Spirit.
  • This is the same message that turns everything upside down for most people today too.  
  • In fact, every other religion in the world has things figured out the way that Nicodemus had.  
  • Do this and don’t do that and the kingdom of God is yours.  
  • It is far more tidy and 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 what we usually experience in our lives – we get punished or rewarded for what we do or don’t do.
  • It’s surprising and difficult for people to accept that it is only by God’s grace that we are born again and enter his kingdom - that it is not based on our being good.   
  • But Jesus says don’t be surprised, “Don’t marvel that I said to you ‘you must be born again’” he said to Nicodemus.  
  • This is the only way to the kingdom of God – to be born again from above.  To be born again by water and the Spirit.  We need to be reborn from above because we were born spiritually dead the first time.  
  • 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 every one of us continues to struggle with our sin. 
  • And ultimately our sin will lead to death.  
  • All of this is the result of being born spiritually dead.  
  • But God has not left us in this state of being dead.
  • Through the Holy Spirit, through the waters of our Baptism - he has given us new life.  We have been born again from above.     
  • When we were born the first time we didn’t get to decide, did we?  
  • Nobody came and consulted with us while we were in the womb.  
  • And if you are like me, you were baptized when you were young, and no one consulted you about that either.  
  • Even if you came to faith later as an adult, and were baptized after that, or you are on your way to baptism now – it still is God’s doing and not yours.  
  • This is not something that we can earn or achieve by following a list of do’s and don’ts.  
  • This is God coming to our rescue because he is merciful and because he loves us. 
  • Being born again from above means that we have new life.  
  • A new life of repentance and receiving God’s forgiveness and living according to God’s will.  
  • Luther tells us in his 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 are no longer slaves to sin.  
  • Being born again from above moves us to love, forgive, and serve our neighbour.  
  • Being born again from above means that even though we do face difficult times in this life (even death itself!) we have certain hope and peace.
  • God the Father has promised us victory over sin and death through his Son Christ Jesus and he makes his promise personally ours through the working of the Holy Spirit.   
  • What Nicodemus hoped to find in the Torah is found in Jesus, the Torah in the flesh standing before him, talking with him. 
  • What Nicodemus wanted more than anything else, to see the kingdom of God and to enter that kingdom to life eternal, is found only in Jesus, the incarnation of God’s love for the world. 
  • And it’s not a matter of choice, or decisions, or good behaviour, or anything else you or I might do. 
  • It’s a matter of birth, of being, and identity. You must be born from above, a second time, not of flesh but of water and Spirit. 
  • You must become something altogether different, a new creation.  You must die and rise in Jesus, be born in him, and that is the work of the Spirit through water and Word.
  • We heard that poor Nicodemus couldn’t believe it, “How can these things be?” he asked.  
  • 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 back to life after 3 days?  
  • 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 our Baptism, by hearing the words of God’s promise, and by having the Holy Spirit open our hearts and minds to this most wonderful Good News.  
  • At some point in his life Nicodemus came to be a faithful believer and follower of our Lord.
  • What were the words that finally satisfied his curiosity and brought him to believe?  
  • The same message that brings all of God’s people to believe and receive God’s gift of salvation, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  Amen. 

More in Lent

April 10, 2020

Good Friday (Full Service)

April 9, 2020

Maundy Thursday (Full Service)

March 28, 2020

Fifth Sunday in Lent