John 3:1-17 (homily notes)
We have a model for the search for Jesus. John 1 begins with a poetic commentary on Jesus which summarizes much of what the rest of the Gospel contains (I recommend reading it to fill in this summation):
· The Word is with God, the Word is God, the Word created everything, and the Word gives life.
· The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not apprehend (overcome or understand) the light
· Those whom the Word created did not recognize Him and His own (the Jews) did not accept Him.
· Whoever does believe in Him becomes a child of God. The Word reveals the glory of the Father (as an only son)
In the first narrative, John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus calls those who follow Him to abide with Him (including us).
John 2 begins “on the third day” [spiritually a metaphor for resurrection] at a wedding [a metaphor for the Kingdom of God]. Jesus provides the best wine [metaphor for Kingdom, cf new wine, new skins]. The whole story can serve as a parable and it ends with the statement Jesus did this, the first of His signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. [crucifixion is glorification in this Gospel; glory of the only Son of the Father]. Their post-resurrection faith is the proper response to the Incarnate Word who offers us life.
The next response is hostile. John places the cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of the public ministry (the Synoptics place it at the end). The key to this event is v18 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” The Jews refers to the Leaders (not the whole people); recall He came to His own but they did not accept Him. The leaders’ unbelief is contrasted with the disciples who see that Jesus fills up the words of Ps 69:9 [see also Zech 14:21 & Mal 3:1]. The disciples have submissive faith, the leaders exhibit dismissive unbelief. (Note Jesus makes reference to His death through the metaphor of destroying temple!)
A third response is found in 2:23-24; “many believed in His name because of the signs that He was doing. But Jesus on His part did not believe (entrust Himself to) them.” He knows what is in the human heart—He knows their “faith” is incomplete and based on signs. Jesus disparages “belief” based on “proofs” and several times the Gospel refers to this [4:48 “unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” or 12:37 “though He had done many signs they did not believe in Him;” and do not forget His words to Thomas: “blessed is the one who has not seen yet believed”]
Nicodemus serves as a model of the third group. His approach is to call Jesus “a teacher who has come from God.” While in the form of a complement, he still fails to recognize Jesus, so it is still unbelief. [like if your son introduces you as a nice man who lives in his neighborhood]
People who call Jesus “a great teacher” today mean to reject Him as Savior and Lord. They do not seek Jesus and that is the issue in John 3.
Nicodemus comes at night, the time of darkness. Probably, he is seeking to avoid detection, but on a deeper level it reveals the contrast of light and dark. Nicodemus leaves the world of darkness when He comes to Jesus (who is the light shining in the dark). Nicodemus is confused by Jesus because his is a half faith. Born from above means that God must make you His child. (Chapter 1: all who believe in Him He gave the power to become children of God.)
What is the message to us?
· Like the wind, the Spirit of God blow around us. We do not know where it comes from or where it goes; but The Spirit works in our hearts. Obedient faith acknowledges Jesus as the Word Incarnate and Savior of the world.
· Our birth as God’s children is a divine act and gift from Jesus.
· Only Jesus has knowledge of God, He has been above in the Father’s presence. He has come to us as a bringer of salvation. No one else is any more than a teacher of God, no one else has seen God. Let’s clarify what no one means: NO ONE. Only Jesus.
· God gave Him for the salvation of the world. The problem is many reject Him. They prefer darkness to the light (v19-21). The theme of light reappears several times in John, notably chapter 12. Those who love darkness do so because they love their sin and unbelief. Those who seek Jesus, seek the light. They submit to His scrutiny—or judgment—and obey His commandments (most notably to love)
Like Nicodemus, we may be holding back to play it safe, trying to fit Jesus in at a time and place which will not cost us. Like Nicodemus we may pay Him complements only to be rebuffed by His questions. Eventually we must choose. Nicodemus chose Jesus. This Lent we are all called to make a deeper commitment.
Jesus is the Boat. We are on the dock. Some remain on the dock and reject Him. Others, like Nicodemus, have taken a step into the boat. Then, standing between the two, unsure of our balance, unsure of the boat they wait. There are two choices: in or out. Yes or no to Jesus. Eventually the boat pulls out (see CS Lewis and Tolkein for the boat journey as image of the journey to God). One foot in is not enough…