Because God Loved the World
February 17, 2008, Lent II
John 3:1-17 [NIV]
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, gRabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.h
3 In reply Jesus declared, gI tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.h
4 gHow can a man be born when he is old?h Nicodemus asked. gSurely he cannot enter a second time into his motherfs womb to be born!h
5 Jesus answered, gI tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, eYou must be born again.f 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.h
9 gHow can this be?h Nicodemus asked.
10 gYou are Israelfs teacher,h said Jesus, gand do you not understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven?the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
16 gFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Because God Loved the World
Who was Nicodemus? He was a man who wanted to know more about Jesus. He came to Jesus and asked some questions and Jesus told him the Gospel message. Some of the things that Jesus said were hard for him to understand, and so Jesus had to give more explanation. Finally, we hear that famous gGospel in a nutshellh John 3:16. gFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.h
Who is Nicodemus? He is you and me, and everyone who has had questions about Jesus and wanted to learn more about Jesus. We cannot ask Jesus directly like Nicodemus did, so we ask the pastor or Sunday school teacher, or we look it up in a Bible dictionary. Some of the answers are hard to understand. We understand the vocabulary, we understand the grammar, but we still do not understand. We are like Nicodemus. Now, Nicodemus was serious and wanted to understand. Vs. 4, gHow can a man be born when he is old?h Nicodemus asked. gSurely he cannot enter a second time into his motherfs womb to be born!h Vs. 9, gHow can this be?h Nicodemus asked. One thing I like about Nicodemus was that he was not afraid to ask, even if it showed is ignorance. He wanted to know the truth; he wanted to know about salvation. But it was hard for him to understand. It was hard because he was thinking of worldly things and Jesus was speaking about heavenly things. Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God, of spiritual rebirth, baptism, faith, and the Holy Spirit. These are things that are hard to understand. No, they are things that are impossible to understand. Jesus said, Vs. 3, gI tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.h Vs. 5 & 6, gI tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.h
In other words, unless someone has the Holy Spirit, they cannot understand the Holy Spirit. If someone is still living in this world, all they can understand is worldly things. To understand heaven, we have to have a rebirth from heaven. To believe in your heart, God has to be in your heart. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Without the work of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to believe in Jesus and have eternal life. The Holy Spirit does not zap people with faith. gPoof, you are a Christian.h The Holy Spirit works in the proclamation of the Gospel and through the sacraments. He works through the words of the Bible stories. We see Jesus Christ lifted up on the cross. And in that we see the love of God. In the cross we see the love of God.
We see God torn between two loves. First, He loves this world. He loves you and me. We humans can understand the love of a father. A father can love his children even if they are bad kids. It is the fatherfs goal to raise his children to be mature people who can return his love and love each other in the family. The world is Godfs family. He loves us. But he was torn between the love of the world and the love of his gone and only Son,h ghis only begotten Son,h Jesus Christ. Yes, Jesus rose on the third day, according the plan of God. But that time in the grave was not an easy time. Jesus cried out on the cross, gMy God, my God, why have you forsaken me?h To put it in terms of siblings, gDo you love those sinful people more than you love your one and only son?h Here we see the sorrow of Jesus, and the grief of God.
But God did not love the world more than Jesus, but as much as Jesus. His love was shown in that he raised Jesus from the dead on the third day. His love is the same for us, in that we too shall be raised at the end of the world. In that same love, we too shall not perish but have eternal life.
When we see this love, it is when the Holy Spirit gives us new birth. When we see that love, we have eternal life. We believe that Jesus is our Savior. We believe that Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sin.
Nicodemus had lots of questions, and so do we. Some answers we will not receive until we get the chance to ask Jesus personally in heaven. I am looking forward to that! But meanwhile, I know the answer to the worldfs biggest problem. I know the answer about the hate and sin of the world. It is John 3:16, gFor God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.h
Michael Nearhood, Pastor
Okinawa Lutheran Church