4th Sunday of Lent B
Updated: Mar 12
March 14, 2021
John 3: 14-21
By Rev. John Tran
Who was Nicodemus? Why is he important to us at all? Nicodemus was a person who would be well recognized by the religious establishment of Jesus day. He is described earlier in this chapter as a Pharisee and a leader of the people. He was a man who mattered in the Jewish religious world as well as in society.
That is why he comes to Jesus by night; he does not want to be recognized. He is a symbolic person in this gospel. He represents those who have a natural human understanding of reality, as well as those who are sympathetic to Jesus, but lack the conviction to make a full and clear stand and a public profession of faith.
This gospel is in the context of explaining that even if a person is a believer in God through the Jewish faith, he or she can be born again, in a sense, to belief in the Son of God who wants us to bring about God’s Kingdom. To do this we reset our priorities and are baptized into Christ.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that whoever believes in the Son of God will have eternal life, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned because he has not believed in the name of God’s only Son. We can wonder what Nicodemus does with this and how did it effect his faith? I read a quote by Lauren Winner who is a Jewish convert to Christianity: “Some days I am not sure if my faith is riddled with doubt or, whether, graciously, my doubt is riddled with faith...yet glimmers of holy keep interrupting my gaze.” Faith is a journey to the holy for Nicodemus as it is for all of us. Nicodemus is not alone, Jesus is present with him.
The point is that Nicodemus does know Jesus, and so his own eternal future, depends on his response to Jesus: Is he with Jesus or not?
At this point we in this church can become a little uncomfortable. You and I know Jesus too, so we face the same choice as Nicodemus: Are we with Jesus or not? What God will do with those, who through no fault of their own, have not been given the gift of Christian faith is God’s business. But for us who do know Jesus, the consequences are clear. If our faith is sure, then even if it is riddled with doubt at times, our way to the holy is clear.
Our eternal future depends on us saying yes to the gift of faith that God has given us -- and if sincere, our “yes” will be evident in everything we do. As Jesus says: Whoever lives in the truth comes to the light so that his or her works may be clearly seen as done by God.
Can I see any growth in declaring for Jesus by what I say and what I do? How can I improve in showing Jesus to others. Nicodemus no doubt struggles and suffered to work all this out in his life. He had a lot to lose by forsaking the way of the Pharisees and his leadership in an established Jewish community. But in the end, in John’s gospel, Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimathea in the burial of Jesus. He took his stand. Nicodemus as may have felt alone in his decision, but in the end, he became much closer to God. Nicodemas' did not come around to belief in Jesus quickly; there were things about Jesus' message that confused him. Something magnetic drew him to Jesus, but his transformation into being a disciple came over time. And yet, in the end, Nicodemus came to love the Lord and follow him. In building a relationship with Jesus, Nicodemus was able to be made into some one new.
There is a wonderful story of growth in a relationship in the movie, Driving Miss Daisy. It is the story of retired school and and man her son hired to be her chauffeur. At first, Miss Daisy wanted nothing to do with a chauffeur. As the years passed, their relationship as driver and passenger grew; they bonded together. Then one day Miss Daisy’s conversion became complete. The process had been long and sometimes difficult, but now it was finished. She could finally say, “Hoke, you are my best friend.
Driving Miss Daisy, tells more than the story of a relationship between a black chauffeur and an elderly, rich, Jewish widow. It is the story of a challenge to be transformed in mind and heart from rebellion into a sense of acceptance in one’s life. Lent is a season when the Church calls us to reflect upon our lives and see how we need to be transformed, to enter into a stronger relationship with God. Daisy’s experience is one illustration of a reality for all – transformation takes time, and shortcuts to its end-product only lead to problems and disappointments. Today’s popular and familiar passage from John’s Gospel challenges us, as it did Nicodemus, to be transformed by Christ.
Am I ready to do this daily? Am I ready to stand for Jesus even if my social, religious, or political standing is threatened? The surprising thing is, that sometimes when I feel most alone, when I feel furthest from God, God seems most present.