Scripture/Sermon of the Day. May 30, 2021

John 3:1-17

Jesus and Nicodemus
3 There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew,[a] it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.”
4 Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?”
5 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ 8 God’s Spirit[b] blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said, “How are these things possible?”
10 “Jesus answered, “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things? 11 I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One.[c] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One[d] be lifted up 15 aso that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Reflection/Sermon:

I. This is the passage with that famous term Jesus used, “born again.” The translation we’re using this morning says “born anew.” People still argue about what it means. Jesus said, “You must be born again,” and Nicodemus tried to figure out how this was humanly possible. He said to Jesus, “It is impossible — isn’t it?”

II. Did you notice that Jesus made a subtle, but big, change in what he said. FIRST (1) he told Nicodemus, “Unless someone is born again, it’s not possible to SEE God’s kingdom.” And THEN (2) he said, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit it’s not possible to ENTER God’s kingdom.”
Then (3) he said: “You must be born again.” He didn’t say, “It’s recommended that you be born again.” He didn’t say, “The latest opinion poll says that people agree that being born again is a good thing.” He didn’t say, “Well, it’s kind of like masks— you can wear one if you want, and it’s recommended. But you don’t have to.” He said: “You must be born again.”

III. WE MUST BE BORN AGAIN? “Wait a minute Jesus — it’s a free country! And nobody, not even God, is going to tell me what I have to do. It’s my God-given right as an American to contaminate and infect whoever I want to!”
Are you following what’s happening in airports and on airplanes? People are going crazy because they’re being told they have to wear masks if they travel. And the reason for that is that people lie and can’t be trusted to wear a mask on their own if they aren’t vaccinated. First the CDC said that people who have been vaccinated don’t need a mask now because they’re not a danger to other people. But you can’t use the honor system with people. God tried that with Adam and Eve. I put that tree there in the garden but I don’t want you to eat from it — and I trust that you will listen to me. That was God’s first mistake. Trusting us to do God’s will.

IV. There have been 1900 cases of people fighting with the airlines because they don’t want to comply with the mask mandate. What is wrong with us? Authorities are saying, ok, if you want to get sick, fine — you’re free to make yourself sick and die. But you can’t make the other people sick — that’s why you have to wear the mask. AND PEOPLE GET ANGRY WITH THAT! Like — “Don’t tell me what to do — I’m free to make myself sick — and you too! I’m free to buy as many guns as I want! I’m free to go into a crowded mall or work place and shoot my assault rifle. You can’t tell me what to do! This is America — people died to give me the right to buy guns and shoot people!”

V. I think the general, emotional mentality of the average American is probably around 8 years old. Adults are having tantrums, like the kids you see in Stop and Shop when their parent tells them they can’t have the Fruit Loops — they have to eat Cheerios. A man knocked out two teeth when he hit a flight attendant in the face because he wouldn’t let her tell him what to do damn it! She was taken to the hospital. She told him he couldn’t have his Fruit Loops. The problem is — when you tell that to a child who lives in an adult’s body, when he has his tantrum, he will knock your teeth out.

VI. But Nicodemus kept his cool. Jesus told him, “You must be born again.” Nicocemus didn’t get angry — just confused. “What does that mean?” He asked.

VII. John doesn’t tell us, but we can gather that Nicodemus continued to follow Jesus and learn from him. Nicodemus learned from Jesus that the fruit of being born again is love, a love that will sacrifice itself for the good of another. HE LEARNED THAT WE ARE OUR BROTHERS AND SISTER’S KEEPER. He learned about a love that would sacrifice itself through the discomfort of wearing a mask, or by taking the time and effort to get vaccinated, or by volunteering at the food bank, or working to end racism, or by cherishing and protecting the environment.
Nicodemus was born again.

VIII. And here we are two thousand years later, AND JESUS TELLS US ALSO THAT WE MUST BE BORN AGAIN. IT’S GOD’S PLAN. We must learn to be guided by love in all we do.
But it IS a free country. And we ARE free to say no to God and do as we choose. “Yes,” says God.
“You ARE free. AND you must be born again. I will wait until that happens.”