A Sermon for 5 Lent
Nearly a week ago Spring officially started here in the Northern Hemisphere signaling the time of year where new life and new growth begin for the created world around us. Flowers begin to bloom, trees bud and many of the living creatures are participating in new life. When we look at this morning’s lessons and Gospel we can see that God is very Springlike, and Spring mimic’s the Creator’s nature in bringing about new life.
In the passage from Ezekiel, the prophet’s vision is ultimately of God’s renewal. Ezekiel receives a vision of a valley full of dry bones, which symbolizes Israel’s disconnect from God(verse 11). Israel has “died” and is without God’s spirit. Israel is in a dark place, in death, in the grave(verse 12). However, despite the disconnect from God, as symbolized in the vision - the bones separated from the sinew, sinew from the flesh, and the flesh ultimately from the breath - the Spirit will be put within them. God will restore Israel, bringing a newness to their state(verses 13,14).
In Psalm 130, we see again a renewal take place, in this case a change in mindset. The psalmist is in the depths and looking for deliverance. The psalmist is in “darkness” and waiting for the light, specifically the morning light, a light at the end of a time of darkness. The psalmist seems to reflect on God’s nature and while waiting is reminded that there is redemption. The psalmist knows that this redemption, this newness is not just on an individual level but also collective and corporate as they call on Israel to acknowledge God’s mercy and “plenteous” redemption.
In the lesson from Romans, we see a juxtaposition of flesh and spirit. This has similar imagery to the passage from Ezekiel, but Paul brings slightly different connotations. For Paul the flesh, while metaphorically connected to the body in this case, equates to living selfishly in sin and apart from God, not focused on Godly things. We might liken this to Israel’s condition in Ezekiel and the separation the Psalmist feels at the beginning of Psalm 130. Whereas the spirit in Paul’s description indicates living righteously, focused on God and Godly things, with God’s Spirit dwelling inside of us. God brings new life to our fleshly state
through the Spirit. We have access to newness because the Spirit of God raised Christ from the dead.
In following the order of the lectionary today, we are brought to the passage from the Gospel of John. I would like to take a moment or two in order to acknowledge some of the complexities with this passage. I do not wish to cheapen or simplify it by nonchalantly connecting it to the theme that I see present today.
At this current moment in time, here today March 26th, 2023, we are one
Sunday away from celebrating Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and approximately two weeks away from the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
In the chronological context of John’s gospel, which is different from the synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, this account with Lazarus, which also does not appear in the Synoptics, is a week before Passover and the crucifixion of Christ.
In the literary construct, this passage is smack dab in the middle of John’s Gospel. 10 chapters before, 10 chapters after. Within the first half of John’s Gospel, the author highlights 7 “signs” of Jesus, one of which was part of the lectionary last week, and a few of the others appear in other lectionary calendars.
This account is the last of the seven “signs'' recorded in John’s Gospel. It is the sign that broke the camel’s back; pushed the religious leaders over the edge; it is the breaking point. Today’s Gospel selection stops a few verses short of the religious leaders escalating their plot to kill Jesus. (Uh, didn’t Jesus just raise Lazarus from the dead and now the leaders want Jesus dead?!?)
So now the raising of Lazarus.
On first take, Lazarus is sick, Jesus is sent for, Jesus comes (cough “late”), gets an earful from Martha and Mary, and then raises Lazarus. New Life!
This depiction of God, in Christ, bringing new life has some further implications for us as we dig deeper.
First, the sisters’ pleas. If Jesus had just come quicker he could have healed Lazarus of the sickness and he wouldn’t have died, yet they express faith that Jesus could do something. Jesus is met on the road to Bethany first by Martha and a discussion ensues about Lazarus’ resurrection. Martha assumes it is a delayed event saved for the day of the resurrection, but Jesus, in His cryptic way, seems to imply that it will not occur as Martha envisions. Jesus is the resurrection and the life, as He was on that day with Martha and as He is today with us. God’s resurrection is accessible in this life.
Second, this event gave God glory, and Jesus, who was and is one with the Father, knew this to be the case. He stated to the disciples when they received word from the messenger, when they were running “late” and He reminded Martha right before calling Lazarus out of the tomb. Furthermore, according to Jewish belief the spirit leaves the body three days after death, so here on the fourth day when Jesus showed up, Lazarus was dead, like dead dead. To those that traveled from Jerusalem to mourn and pay their respects, many if not all, would’ve counted Lazarus a lost cause. God is the giver of new life, which, for human expectations may seem delayed but right on time for bringing glory and leading people to an encounter with God.
Lastly, we see that Jesus is affected emotionally by this situation, as it is
described that “Jesus wept.” The emotions of Jesus are minimally represented in the Gospels. In the garden at Gethsemane found in the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke; the clearing of the temple found in all of the Gospels, and now here in John chapter 11. We don’t know exactly why Jesus is weeping. Perhaps he is an empathetic crier. He sees the sisters and others grieving and mourning, he feels the weight of the situation, and in empathy, in solidarity, he too weeps. Or perhaps, as it is stated in the Gospel, Lazarus is one whom Jesus loved and Jesus is heartbroken and wrecked at this momentary loss, and I say
momentary because Jesus has already indicated that Lazarus has “fallen asleep”. Or perhaps, Jesus knows that what he is about to do will set in motion his betrayal, execution and resurrection. Whatever the reason, the image of Christ, God’s son, incarnate deity, embracing the emotional state of humanity is powerful, reassuring and hope inducing. God the giver of new life has experienced our life.
So what might all of this mean for us, here today?
For some of us here today, we are looking for and want to encounter the
newness that God can give. We may be waiting like the Psalmist for the morning light. We may be like the dry bones of Ezekiel, needing the components of life to be regenerated so the breath of God can inhabit our being. Or perhaps we are feeling more like Lazarus - dead dead and need God to resurrect us. Whatever it might be, may Jesus’ words to Martha bring us comfort,
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
For others of us here, we have experienced God’s newness. God’s Spirit dwells in us. We are sharing that newness of life because we have encountered God at some point in our lives. We are like the psalmist calling others to “wait for the LORD”, to find that “there is mercy” and “plenteous redemption”.
And there are some of us that are in between. Neither dead, nor feeling full of
God’s newness. However, if in faith we send for Jesus’ healing touch like the sisters did, or go to meet Jesus on His way to us, we will find “the resurrection and the life”.
A Sermon for 4 Lent
These four passages – Jesus’ visit from Nicodemus, his encounter with the Samaritan woman, his healing of the man born blind, and his raising of Lazarus, which comes next week – are all crazy long. They contain some of the most extensive dialogue found in the gospels as well as some of the most complex plotting and the most provocative interpersonal dynamics.
John provides fewer accounts of Jesus’ active ministry than do Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but the episodes he does include, he develops in tremendous detail. As I observed when I reflected with you about the Nicodemus conversation, the community from which John’s gospel arose was deeply concerned about understanding the meaning of Jesus’ life, his identity, and the relationship between Jesus and God. These concerns of the young Church in the very last part of the 1st century Before the Common Era, were the beginning of an intense era in the life of the Church (that in fact lasted through the great Councils of the Church in the 4th century) in which pinning down the Church’s Christology – its understanding of the nature of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah - was a primary focus.
If we read John closely, we see that this is the thread that runs through the gospel, from the Prologue in which John declares that In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and throughout, including in this morning’s account of Jesus’ healing of the man who was born blind.
Before we take a look at other details and implications of this morning’s gospel, I’d like to zoom in on one little line that is part of the pattern through which John reveals his convictions about Jesus. Before he heals the blind man in today’s gospel, Jesus says to him “I am the light of the world.” This is one of SEVEN “I am” statements spoken by Jesus in John’s gospel. Scholars who write about these “I am” statements don’t even count such statements as the one we heard last week, in which after talking about living water and the coming of the Messiah, Jesus says to the Samaritan Woman “I am he.” I’ll leave it to you to listen for the “I am” statement coming up in next week’s gospel.
What’s the big deal about these “I am” statements? Do you recall the story of the call of Moses in Exodus? How Moses was confronted by a burning bush and heard a voice directing him to return to Egypt and lead his people out of bondage? In the communal memory of their relationship with God and of God’s saving activity on their behalf, this memory was and is one of the critical touchstones for Israel, for Jesus’ community. It would have been well known, as it was read from the Torah in the synagogue every year.
One of the questions Moses asks in that ancient story aims to understand God’s identity: “But who shall I say sent me?” The answer Moses heard was “I AM.”
Jewish hearers of Jesus’ repeated “I am” declarations, and readers of John’s gospel who were been grounded in the Hebrew Scriptures would have been immediately understood Jesus’/John’s reference: God was once again revealing God’s self, once again offering grace and salvation to God’s people, this time, in Jesus.
And so we have this rather crazy story of the healing of the man born blind. You may have had trouble following it as we heard it this morning because the plot is a bit of a jumble. It starts with Jesus’ disciples, upon seeing a man who was blind, begging, and, assuming that his blindness was a punishment for sin, asking whether it was the man himself or his parents who had sinned. Without any direct interaction with the man himself, Jesus applies mud to the man’s eyes and directs him to go to a sacred pool to wash.
And Jesus then disappears. When the formerly blind man returns with his sight restored, a complete hubbub ensues, with a wide cast of characters getting involved in the quest to figure out what has happened. Is this really the man who was blind? How then was his sight restored? The uneasy neighbors refuse to believe the man’s account of his own experience, and drag him before the local religious authorities, who in turn don’t believe his testimony, but instead, haul his parents out as witnesses. The parents actually don’t really want to get involved, fearing that coming down on the side of the controversial prophet, Jesus, would not be in their best interests. When the continuing dialogue between the religious leaders and the newly-sighted man leads to his offending them with the suggestion that they don’t really know as much as they think they know, they expel the man from the synagogue and, apparently, the community.
At which point Jesus returns, to offer consolation to the one who has been healed. He confirms man’s belief in the Messiah and informs the man that he is the one who has been expected, and offers a summary statement on the whole episode: “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”
I have often referred to Frederick Buechner’s suggestion that the gospel is a mirror that shows us ourselves1, and this certainly applies here. Today’s gospel is really a sad story of a group of people who are so unwilling to have their view of the world shaken up that they refuse to hear the truth about a healing that takes place right in their midst. It would be laughable if it weren’t so sad that not just the powerful religious leaders but also the ordinary townsfolk cannot believe the firsthand testimony of a person they know. “He’s blind. He can’t possibly be able to see now just because that traveling preacher smeared some mud on him!” “It must be somebody who just looks like him, probably trying to put something over on us.” “We’d better get rid of him!”
And this is, at least in part, my point about this story as a mirror. We have such a drive in us to fit the evidence to the way we already understand the world that it is really hard to remain open to new thoughts and new truths. When claims of a different reality nudge at us and make us uncomfortable, our impulse is to want to punish somebody. When Jesus says “I came into this world … so that those who do not see may see”, he’s not really talking about the man born blind: it is all of us that Jesus speaks about, even as he is also speaking to us.
I feel terribly troubled, and I suspect that many of you share my concern, that the cultural divides that exist not only in our country, but increasingly, it seems, in the wider world, seem to be hardening rather than easing. I worry terribly that diverging perspectives on gun ownership, and on what we have to acknowledge are real immigration crises throughout the world, and on voting rights, to name just a few, seem to have become intractable problems because we are so dug in to our differing assumptions and differing values that we cannot even talk to one another, let alone devise solutions.
I hope that I am clear that I think we are all guilty of this. It’s very easy for me to see the plank in the other person’s eye, to identify how narrow and selfish and unreasonable their positions are. I think that we Christians have Lent so that we can be thinking about the debris that compromises our own vision.
In her sermon last week Heather built on Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus that “‘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”, observing that in his outreach to the Samaritan Woman, Jesus EMBODIED that message of love. Heather went on to suggest that the story of the Samaritan Woman is an invitation to us to join Jesus in the work of reconciliation among peoples who are divided from one another.
I think that today’s story shows us the role that vision plays in the challenges of doing the work of reconciliation. In order bridge divides, we must be willing to see accurately, and overcome our own inclinations to remain blind.
When Jesus returns to the man born blind at the end of our gospel story, he promises that he has come into the world “so that those who do not see may see”. Jesus shows us God’s presence in the world and God’s wish to heal us. The vision we need is inner vision; the vision we need is wisdom and courage, to open our eyes to the truths that are not simple and not easy, and not necessarily the ones we’d choose.
What clouds our vision this week?
What are we having a hard time seeing?,
Where do we need healing?
She also reminded us that the Pharisees understood interpretation of scripture as an ongoing process of revelation, which is likely why Nicodemus would have sought Jesus out. He was curious about Jesus’ understanding of scripture. Given the tensions that existed between Jesus and some of the Pharisees regarding how the law should be applied, Nicodemus chose to approach him under the cover of night.
In their conversation, Jesus made a profound claim about the meaning of his life and ministry in scripture’s most well known verse - John 3:16: “‘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.’”
In her sermon, Molly reflected, “This verse…has sometimes been interpreted from an exclusive rather than inclusive perspective. Rather than emphasizing God’s love for the world… and God’s act to lead the world into abundant and eternal life, some focus on belief in Jesus as an absolute prerequisite for salvation, as if the text said ‘God gave his Son so that ONLY those who believe in him may have eternal life.’”
I believe our tradition interprets this verse from an inclusive perspective. That Jesus is telling Nicodemus the meaning of his life and ministry is to lead the entire world into abundant and eternal life. What we would call God’s dream, that we try to embody every week in the Eucharist, when here at James and Andrew, we proclaim: This is God’s table, and all are welcome here; no exceptions.
All of this is important background information as we turn to today’s gospel lesson. Here Jesus transitions from proclaiming with his words that he has come for the entire world, to embodying that message in his actions.
Jesus and his disciples had left Judea and were traveling towards Galilee. This was typically a six day journey, as Jewish travelers would add a three day detour in order to avoid the region of Samaria. That was how contentious things were between the Jewish and Samaritan communities. These tensions had existed for centuries, in spite of the fact that the Jewish and Samaritan communities shared so much in common. They shared the Torah; they shared a common history; and they even shared much of the same bloodlines.*
Yet when the Assyrians invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 720 BCE, most of the Israelites were carried off to a distant land as slaves, never to see their home again.* While some were left behind, marrying people from other cultures and beliefs systems; eventually becoming known as Samaritans. You can imagine the resentment that might bubble up between a community torn apart, each going through their own intense challenges.
Yet John’s gospel tells us that Jesus “...had to go through Samaria.” (4:4) There was no pressing appointment that caused him to take this shortcut, and culturally, it wouldn’t have made sense for him to go through Samaria. Unless, there was a theological reason.** Which we know there was from Jesus’ exchange with Nicodemus. “‘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.’” The reason Jesus had to go through Samaria, was to embody this message.
When Jesus and his disciples arrived outside a Samaritan city, Jesus took rest by a well, while the disciples went in search of food. In the heat of midday, a woman came to the well by herself, long after the other women had come and gone. Due to her complicated history with marriage, she was considered an outcast by her own community. As she drew water, she would have ignored Jesus, and expected him to do the same.
Yet an astonishing thing happens. Jesus begins a conversation with her. It is Jesus’ longest recorded conversation in scripture.* With each exchange, their relationship deepens.
It begins when he breaks social norms, and instructs her to give him water.
She is taken aback by his directness, and asks:
“How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”***
In response, he provokes her curiosity:
“If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”***
Yet this quick witted woman pushes back:
“Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? ***
He assures her anyone who drinks the living water will never thirst, and with sarcasm, she responds, give me some of that water so I never have to come back here!
He tells her, go and get your husband; she acknowledges, she has no husband. They are circling in on a truth, and they both know it.
He then mentions her five husbands, and the man she lives with now. Not to shame her, the way we often hear this story interpreted, but to convey Jesus is a prophet, someone with God-given insight.
He knows her, as God knows her.
Feeling uncomfortably seen, she pushes back.
If you're such a prophet, surely you have some answers about the differences between my community’s beliefs and yours.
To which Jesus tells her, none of that matters; and she concedes, when the Messiah comes, he’ll explain things.
Then he tells her, I am he - the Messiah.
This is the first time in John’s gospel that Jesus identifies as I am, as God incarnate.
The woman abandons her bucket, and races back to the city, saying to people: “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?”***
The people left the city to go and find out for themselves.
Theologian Karoline Lewis speaks of how this passage embodies Jesus’ words to Nicodemus. These words were meant to remind the disciples, Samaritans, and each of us that God’s blessing was, and is, meant for the whole world.** She emphasizes how this passage is about the belonging that we find in the relationship we nurture with God and Jesus. A relationship that is offered to each and every person in this world. Not just those who choose it. She goes on to say, something that I think we would be wise to hold onto as we make our ways towards Holy Week.
“Salvation is not located in the event of the cross, but in the larger reality of God’s’ invitation to relationship through Jesus.”
Jesus told Nicodemus - I am here to bring God’s blessing to the whole world. He embodies that in his exchange with the Samaritan woman. She then passes on that blessing of God’s love with her community, even though they do not act in love or kindness towards her.
If God’s blessing is meant for the whole world, that means it is meant for those who have hurt us, those who get under our skin, those we cannot seem to understand. We live in a time of increasing division. A division that is devastating, maddening, and deeply terrifying. What if today’s passage is an invitation for us to join Jesus in the work of reconciliation? Reconciliation is what Jesus modeled for the disciples and the Samaritan community in today’s story, and it is something profoundly needed in our world.
The Catechism within The Book of Common Prayer, asks the question:
What is the ministry of the laity?
The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.
Like the Samaritan woman, we are each called to bear witness to Christ in our context - our families, our work, our social network, according to the unique gifts we have been blessed with, in order to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world. We know the vision of God’s dream, and we each have an opportunity to help bring about that dream in our small little corner of God’s world. Part of communicating that vision of God’s dream, is striving to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world. An impossible task if we try to do it on our own, but completely plausible when we remember we are in this together as a universal body of Christ.
As we make our way towards Holy Week, I would invite us each to do some reflecting:
* Lindsay Hardin Freeman, Bible Women: All their words and why they matter, pg 419.
** This idea was unpacked and explored in great detail by Karoline Lewis in the WorkingPreacher podcast for 3 Lent.
*** The Message John 4
A Sermon for 2 Lent
Nicodemus was an important person: he was a big deal. As a Pharisee, he was part of the elite – better educated than most, a member of the Sanhedrin (or ruling council at the Jerusalem Temple), he was an insider and would have been accorded respect and privilege.
Pharisees were the most progressive of the Jewish sects that existed in Jesus’ time. Despite their rigidity in relation to applying the Law of Moses - which led to their conflicts with Jesus over his sabbath practices, for example - they believed that interpretation of the Torah, of scripture, was a matter of ongoing revelation. They were open to an evolving understanding of God’s intent for humankind, which may be what prompted Nicodemus to seek Jesus out to learn more about the new rabbi’s teachings.
It would certainly have been unusual for such an important person (and a member of the religious establishment) to seek out Jesus, and so it’s not surprising that he did so under cover of night. Nicodemus would not have wanted to advertise any association with this radical religious teacher. It seems that he couldn’t resist the impulse to learn more, however: he couldn’t dismiss his sense that “something is going on here….”
We never actually find out, in John’s narrative, what Nicodemus wanted from Jesus, because immediately after his initial statement acknowledging Jesus as a “teacher who has come from God,” Jesus effectively hijacks the conversation to launch into a line of instruction, with Nicodemus practically scrambling to keep up.
Jesus’ instruction addresses what one needs in order to to enter the kingdom of God. It includes a Greek term – anothen -that is difficult to translate, and that has caused consternation and controversy within Christian communities:
Jesus tells Nicodemus EITHER:
No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above OR
No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again.
Nicodemus understands this statement literally, he gets stuck on and bewildered by the notion of a person having to physically re-enter the womb and experience literal rebirth.
Jesus, of course, is talking about something else, about spiritual rebirth, about making a fresh start. He tells Nicodemus that rebirth is not a matter of the physical self, but of the spiritual self, and is the work of the Spirit, leading one to new life.
This verse has been understood by some Christian groups as a specific requirement. Some believe and preach the necessity of being “born again” in a particular kind of experience, using particular language, in order to be “saved”. Connected to this is the belief that those who are not “born again” according to a particular formula are not truly redeemed. This understanding reflects an exclusive rather than inclusive perspective, and is not the understanding of the Episcopal Church.
But back to our gospel passage.
After the exchange about rebirth, Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus transitions into a sermon.
You’re probably aware of the ways in which John’s gospel differs from the synoptics, Matthew, Mark and Luke. It was written anywhere from twenty to forty years after the synoptics and includes passages of discourse – some of them quite lengthy – that are attributed to Jesus, and that represent what the young church had come to believe about the purpose of Jesus’ life. John’s community told stories – some of which we find in John’s gospel, that have Jesus explaining the meaning of his life and ministry.
The brief sermon that we hear Jesus offering to Nicodemus is one of these. It includes what may be most quoted verse in the Bible, which Marin Luther described as “whole gospel in a single verse”, John 3:15:
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.
This verse, like the one about rebirth, has sometimes been interpreted from an exclusive rather than inclusive perspective. Rather than emphasizing God’s love for the world – let’s notice, the world, not God’s love for the church, let alone any particular segment of the church – rather than emphasizing God’s love for the world, and God’s act to lead the world into abundant and eternal life, some focus on belief in Jesus as an absolute prerequisite for salvation, as if the text said “God gave his Son so that ONLY those who believe in him may have eternal life.” There is an important difference. Again, many do NOT read the passage this way.
Final verse of the text further reiterates and reinforces the theme of God’s expansive and inclusive love:
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.
So what might Jesus’ words mean for us today? Is spiritual rebirth what we should be looking for? Is it something that takes place as an event, or is it a process?
Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to see or enter the kingdom of God, a person must be born of the Spirit. Our ancestors in faith often taught that in speaking of the kingdom of God, Jesus was speaking of a realm that exists outside of the world we live in, one that we can hope to enter after our physical life ends.
Today we no longer understand God’s reign to be separate from the life we live here and now. Today we understand Jesus to have been preaching about what Presiding Bishop Curry refers to as “God’s dream”, the community of love, justice, and peace that God intends for God’s creation. This reign of God is a time of living in right relationship with ourselves, with one another and with God; it is a reality we can build in the present, and it extends into the “eternal life” that Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about.
To be “born of the Spirit”, I suspect, simply means living a life that grows out of our relationship with God.
I can best understand the idea of spiritual rebirth as being found in the gradual path of spiritual growth that we all work at over the course of our lifetimes. We work at spiritual growth through prayer and reflection, through study, through participation in worship, and through the experience of life in community, especially through our work together in service to others and to God’s world. Lent is the perfect time to focus on spiritual growth.
I also think that we can also experience instances of dramatic change of our spiritual awareness, times when the circumstances or events of our lives produce in us real moments of transformation, of opening and expansion, of new self-knowledge and deepening in our relationship with God. Some of these times of change grow out of the joyful moments in life – I think of the birth of children and how profoundly that experience alters our view of what is important – but many times our spiritual development is painful, and grows out of times of loss and failure that bring us up short, requiring us to look at the truth of our lives in new ways.
Jesus’ words to Nicodemus about spiritual rebirth suggest relationship and experience rather than doctrine and dogma. They describe a kind of spiritual growth that depends on courage and trust, but that leads to new possibilities of life marked by freedom, joy, peace, and love.
John’s gospel never tells us what impact the conversation with Jesus had on the man, Nicodemus, but the whole of John’s gospel provides quiet suggestions.
Nicodemus appears two more times in John.
As a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court, John tells us that Nicodemus spoke up in defense of offering Jesus a fair trial, at the time of his arrest.
And finally, Nicodemus is the one who brings myrrh and aloes, along with Joseph of Arimathea, to prepare Jesus’ body for burial after his crucifixion.
Did Nicodemus turn toward rebirth, toward a life of faith in Jesus? It certainly seems to be John’s implication. Nicodemus’ story promises us that rebirth is possible, that change can happen. And if it can happen to Nicodemus, it can happen to us.
May we, in this season of Lent, like Nicodemus, dare to bring our questions and our uncertainties forward before God.
May we keep our eyes on Jesus.
May we find in ourselves the will and the trust to invest in our own spiritual growth.
May we, through God’s grace, travel toward new life in community with our sisters and brothers and live into an openness of heart, so that we may be reborn of the Spirit.
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