Sermon – October 28, 2018
What is it that is wrong with humanity? It is likely that each of us has realized that something has gone wrong. Perhaps not with you, but at least with the person next to you! We have shootings and bombing, indiscriminate acts of terror and words of violence permeating our lives. How do we fix these things? Is it just education and sympathy? Do we need to find the fixes ourselves? What does Jesus and the Bible have to say about the problem and how to fix it? Today we get to listen in as Jesus explains to Nicodemus that he must, if he wishes to see and enter the kingdom of God, be born again.
1. Your sin makes you broken
Nicodemus was everything that a Jew could be. He was a ruler of the Jews, a teacher, and the best of the Pharisees. His confession was spot on. Yet, while he claims to understand and rightly see Jesus for the work that he has done, Jesus tells him that he must be born-again (or born from above). Even Nicodemus is not right before God, and he must be re-made in order to be ready for the kingdom. John’s choice of Nicodemus is important – if not him, then who? What chance do we have?
2. God’s Spirit makes you born-again
Nicodemus’ answer is not stupid, and he does not miss Jesus’ point. Rather, he seems to understand perfectly well what Jesus means, but realizes that such a statement, taken at face value, leaves us without any possibility of effecting that change. Here, Nicodemus is precisely right. Yet, not all hope is lost. Jesus doubles-down on his outlandish and outrageous statement, but provides some insight into how these things can be. Ezekiel gives a record of God calling for this very type of heart change, “repent, and live, for why will you die” might be a good summary of large portions of his work. Yet, die Israel does. But God promises to do what they refused, or could not, do. He will sprinkle them with water and give them his Spirit. God will make us born of water and Spirit, by grace and without condition.
3. Your sin makes you blind
Nicodemus does not understand how these things could be. And Jesus knows why. The very darkness that covered his eyes to blind him to the truth behind the signs that he has seen has also blinded him to the truth of the OT message. We are no different. Rightly apprehending the OT, and the NT, requires nothing less than the Spirit of God. Let us always rely upon the Spirit, and not on our own understanding!
4. God’s Spirit makes you believe
The odd passage of Numbers 21:4-9 is referenced by Jesus here, as a depiction of what his own healing of his people will look like. When the people of Israel rebel against God and Moses, God sends snakes to bite them, killing many in Israel. To stop the plague of snakes, God instructs Moses to make a snake placed on top of a stake, so that the people can look at it and be healed. Here, we are to do the same, but we must not just physically “see” Jesus on the cross, but understand what he accomplishes. When we see Jesus on the cross, we see our judge, our judgment, and our sin crucified. Friends, look on the cross and live! Pray that God would give many eyes to see and ears to hear. And, if you have received the Spirit of God, praise him for his kind work in your life!