Our Gospel lesson this week is John 3:1-21, taken today from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).
There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to him at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform these signs you do unless God were with him.” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can these things be?” asked Nicodemus. “Are you a teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?” Jesus replied. “Truly I tell you, we speak what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you do not accept our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven —the Son of Man. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. This is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”
Nicodemus the Pharisee comes to Jesus by night to ask honest questions. In other lessons we hear of the Pharisees and scribes debating Jesus, trying to trap Him in what He teaches, but Nicodemus is an earnest seeker. He has difficulty understanding but he listens, and apparently learns – in John 19 we hear that he came to help bury Jesus after the Crucifixion.
He hid his faith out of fear, something followers of Jesus would have to do for hundreds years afterwards, and something that still sadly occurs in many places. Most of us are blessed to be able to practice and share our faith freely. There are times we may feel ridiculed or hindered but very rarely are we threatened with death.
Do we realize and appreciate this wonderful gift? The fact that we can spread the Good News in safety should make us thankful, and energize us to go out into the world to tell everyone of our connection to God. Don’t let the lack of opposition lead us to “lazy Christianity”, stand up for Jesus wherever you are!
Wise and wonderful God, we are grateful for the opportunity to be part of the work of Your kingdom. Make us strong in faith and send us to make disciples of all nations. Amen.