The Second Sunday in Lent (2/17/2008)


Lessons: Genesis 12:1-4a Psalm 121 Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 St. John 3:1-17

Prayer of the Day: O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism you bring us to new birth to live as your children. Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your Spirit we may lift up your life to all the world through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

3.1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." 3 Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." 4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.' 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." 9 Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" 10 Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11 "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

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. 17 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."

St. John 3:1-17, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Have you heard about the man? He comes from some small little place up north. Everybody is talking about him. He's stirred up the whole city. Wherever he goes, there are dozens of people following him. They say that you could hardly get through the crowd that was listening to him in the Temple the other day.

I hear that he is an amazing teacher. He has squared off with the best of the teachers in town, and is so smart that he makes them sound like children. He knows more about the Bible than anyone. Some have tried to trap him in his words, but they've failed. He teaches differently than most teachers. He doesn't say, "Rabbi Ben Eleazar says this." or "Rabbi Joseph says this." He just tells it like he sees it. I suppose that is why the crowds are so attracted to him. I wonder if he really is that good.

But that's not the half of it. They say that he has this ability; a kind of magic ability. They say he can perform miracles. There was this wedding up in Cana, near where he grew up, and the wine ran out. He was able to turn three huge jugs of water into the finest wine anyone had ever tasted. Then there was this fisherman whose mother was very ill. He actually healed her - made her better right then and there. She got out of her sick bed, and started partying with them. I wonder if it what they say about him is really true. I wonder if he really can do miraculous things like that.

I'd love to go and find out for myself. I'd love to listen to what he is teaching, and see if he is as good as they say he is. I'd love to see him do one of those miracles - oh I'd really love that! But there is no way. I don't dare be seen in public with this guy. You see: I've worked all my life to get to where I am today. I've spent years studying, and then years working grunt jobs in the Temple. Now I'm one of the best-known leaders in Jerusalem. I'm a Pharisee, you know. I love my work. And I wouldn't do anything to risk losing it all.

Not everyone has the same attitude as me. The others: they think he is crazy, or maybe even teaching in a way that is wrong, or dangerous. They want to get rid of him. They're worried that he'll lead the people astray. They've already started making plans. They want to arrest him, and get him out of the city. They don't dare do it when anyone is watching. They're afraid of what the crowds will do. But they're a pretty clever bunch. If it is possible to get rid of him, they'll probably be able to do it.

No, I don't dare be seen with him. They'd accuse me of being one of his followers. Then they'd want to do away with me too, and I‘d lose everything. My job downtown. My salary (which, I might tell you, is a pretty big one). My nice house. My membership at the club. All the invitations I get to parties and events and receptions. Oh, if I ever was caught with him, I'd lose it all...

But I'm dying to know if he is half of what the people say he is. What should I do? How can I find out, without the others knowing what I'm up to? I wonder if it would be worth going to him in secret. I might get discovered, and I'd rather die. But on the other hand, if I went in the middle of the night, who would see me? And then, maybe, I might get to see if he is really all that he's cracked up to be. I wonder if it would be worth the risk. I wonder if I could get away with it...

David J. Risendal, Pastor  (February 13, 2008)

Exploring This Week's Text:

  1. Why do you suppose Nicodemus went to visit Jesus in the dark of night?
  2. What did he have to lose if he got caught?
  3. What did he have to gain by spending time with Jesus?

Connecting with This Week's Text:

  1. Are there times or situations when I find myself reluctant to be identified as a Christian?
  2. What might I have to lose if certain people knew about my faith?
  3. How would people's reaction to me be different if they could tell by what I say and by what I do that I am a Christian?