Year B Fourth Sunday of Lent

John 3: 14 – 21

Introduction

Note:  I have taken the liberty of slightly re-arranging this text, so as to make the meaning clearer.

Note: It will help our understanding of the story of Nicodemus if we Read and Reflect on:

  • The ‘Wedding Feast of Cana’, which deals with a spirituality that has lost its life, joy and spirit.  It has become an empty formula, Jn 2: 1 – 11;
  • The ‘Cleansing of the Temple’ which speaks of the hindering and frustration of a Good Relationship with our God.  This relationship has been reduced to a market place mentality, Jn 2: 13 – 22.

N.B.  Today, we will learn how Nicodemus grew in his relationship with God.  This story will help us to grow in our own relationship with God.

Prayer

Bless the Lord, my soul;

all my being , bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, my soul;

do not forget all the gifts of God,

Who pardons all your sins,

heals all your ills,

Delivers your life from the pit,

surrounds you with love and compassion,

Fills your days with good things;

your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Merciful and gracious is the Lord,

slow to anger, abounding in kindness.

God does not always rebuke,

nurses no lasting anger,

Has not dealt with us as our sins merit,

nor rewarded us as our sins deserve.  Ps 103: 1 – 5; 8 – 10

Look what a good God we have!

Tell God how wonderful He is.

Read today’s story out loud so that you get a really good idea about who is in the story and what they are telling us.

When you are finished stand up and proclaim:

This is the Word of the Lord.”

This is the inspired Word of God.’

(By the way, did you notice that “believe” comes up five times.  “Believe”;  means to ‘trust’ somebody fully.)

The Story of Nicodemus

Just for a moment let us travel back in time using our imagination. We are in a small house in Ephesus. The date is sometime between 90 and 100 AD. The writer of John’s gospel is looking back on the life of Jesus and how the influence of Jesus has changed his way of thinking. Over the years that he has been a Christian he has come to realise what a wonderful God we have. He has travelled a long way in his growing understanding of the God of Jesus. No longer does he see God as a blood and thunder, avenging God.

He has discovered with absolute certainty that; “God loves him, and always will.” He responds so positively to this that people around him notice a change in his way of relating to them. He has become kinder, more tolerant and considerate. People see him becoming more Christ-like. Gradually the truth “we are made in the image of God” shines out through him.  Gen 1: 26

This is the story of every Christian.  Each one of us is Nicodemus.

It is not surprising that Nicodemus comes by night. “Night”, describes how he originally saw his relationship with God. All seemed to be darkness. It was difficult to see his relationship with God as life-giving. Indeed, if truth be told, his image of God was terrifying. God was watching, there were any number of mistakes that God could use to send him to hell for all eternity.

Everything has changed now. John uses this story about Nicodemus to tell us all about the wonderful God he has come to believe in.

14Jesus said to Nicodemus:

“The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,

15so that everyone …. may have eternal life in him believe this!  

16Yes, God loved the world so much

that he gave his only Son, so that everyone …. (may not be lost but) may have eternal lifebelieve this! 

 

GOOD NEWS

“The Son of Man must be lifted up”.  Jesus loves us so much that he will go to great lengths to reach out to us.  Nothing is too much for him to do for us.  Regardless of what has happened in the past we have nothing to fear from renewing our friendship with Him.

God loves the world so much”.  This is incredibly Good News!  I am so loved by God that he would do anything to help me live out my life to the fullest, “have eternal life”.  His will for all of us is that we be the very best persons that we can possibly be.  He sets no conditions.  His love and concern are freely given.  What is more, it will never change.

* * * * * *

17For God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. 

18No one  . . . . will be condemned believe this;

but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already, because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son. 

 

GOOD NEWS

Could this possibly be true?  God is incredible!

Is it any wonder that Paul says:

“What then shall we say of this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?

Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?  It is God who acquits us.

It is Christ, who intercedes for us.

I am convinced that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   Rom 8: 31 – 39

Let this truth enter deeply into your being.  It may take you quite some time to come to believe it.  Once we have come to accept this truth, surely there is no way that we can reject such a wonderful God.  Believing in God’s name means that we live our lives just as Jesus.  We make Jesus’ values our own.  We imitate Jesus’ life style in the respect, love and concern we show for others.  His spirit, becomes our spirit.

* * * * * *

19On these grounds is sentence pronounced: that though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil.

GOOD NEWS

We return now to Nicodemus who has spent so much time living in darkness and now the “Light of the World” has come into his life.

 

We are Nicodemus and the “Light of the World” has come into our lives.

We discover that God is completely on our side. He would go to the ends of the earth for us.  Having experienced God’s love we in turn share this unconditional love with others.

 19Therefore,

chose life that you and your descendants may live,

20loving Yahweh, listening to his voice, and being with him.”

Dt 30: 15; 19 – 20

20And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; 21Those

who live by the truth

come to the light

so that it may be clearly seen that God is in all they do.

CONCLUSION

Is it possible that all this is true?

Let us check it out against Jesus’ life.

 

Read Jn 8: 1 – 10  This is the story of what happened when a woman who was caught in adultery was brought to Jesus.

Now we will learn how Jesus acted.

Please be aware of the people who participated in this event.

The Crowd – this included Scribes, Pharisees, the people, some of Jesus’ disciples and the Apostles.

The Woman

Jesus

The ‘crowd’ tried to:

  •     Shame the woman before the community – Jesus sent her into life with her dignity and self-confidence restored.
  •     Set up Jesus as a judge in their image –  Jesus refused to judge.
  •     Get Jesus to condemn – He rejected this.  “I will not condemn you.”
  •   Get Jesus to impose punishment for sin  – Jesus ignored the idea.

For the sake of this woman Jesus defied the current thinking; he rejected the concept of God the crowd had; he took on the establishment, in the defence of the powerless, putting himself at great risk.

The Woman:

She realises that she was:  loved – respected – valued as a person – precious.

A song of praise and thanksgiving to our incredible God.

Bless the Lord, my soul;

all my being , bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, my soul;

do not forget all the gifts of God,

Post script:

This text was just too much for some of the ‘pillars’ of Christianity.

For years it was excluded from the New Testament – I wonder why!!