Homily. All Age. John 3, March 12th 2023.
Lord Jesus, as we approach you, now speak to us, and teach us…Amen.
In our Gospel, we find such strong statements about those two mighty subjects – the new birth and salvation by faith in Jesus, the Son of God.
4 super brief points.
Nicodemus visited ‘at night’.
Why at night? Was he busy during the day, or wanted private time with Jesus? It is likely he visited at night because he feared people knowing – what they would think or say or do if they knew he visited Jesus. He came by ‘night’ because he did not have the faith and courage to come by day.
Yet, John 7, 1-2 years later. There was a time when Nicodemus, took the side of our Lord in the day light, in a hostile environment of frustration and antagonism towards Jesus. Nicodemus, seemingly the only voice heard that day: Does our Law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?’
Nor was this the only time he stood up. There came a time when this same Nicodemus was one of only 2 men who buried Jesus after crucifixion. He helped bury him, when even the chosen apostles had fled their Master. Nicodemus – his last things, were more than his first; though he began weakly, he ended well.
Zechariah reminds us – ‘do not despise the day of small beginning’.
How did Jesus receive Nicodemus?
This man who came, perhaps uncertain, perhaps with questions.
Yet our Lord, ‘did not break the bruised reed or put out the smouldering wick’ which he saw visiting him that night.
‘’Let us be like Jesus, let us take inquirers, seeker by the hand, seekers, and be gentle, compassion, patient and loving with them.
In everything there must be a beginning. It does not mean that the one who has the most dramatic and dynamic declaration of faith who will automatically be the best – Judas Iscariot was an apostle, a follower, chosen, when Nicodemus was only just groping his way into the full light.
But afterwards – Nicodemus was physically helping to bury his crucified Saviour, while Judas Iscariot has betrayed Jesus and hanged himself…
2.New Birth – a mighty change!
What a mighty change, our Lord declares is needed to be saved, and what an expression he uses.
‘‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’’ He says it again when Nicodemus questions. ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.
He was telling Nicodemus that ‘no one could become his disciple’ unless his inward man was as thoroughly cleansed and renewed by the Spirit as the outward man is cleansed by water.’ To posses the privileges of Judaism, a man or woman only need to be born descended from Abraham; to possess the privileges of Christ’s Kingdom, a man or woman must be born again of the Holy Spirit.
This is no mere minor change,. It is thorough change of heart, will and character.
It is a resurrection, as Paul calls it.
It is a new creation. It is passing from death to life.
It is the implanting into our spiritually dead hearts, of new principles and love from above.
It is the calling into existence a new creature, us, with a new nature, new habits of life, new tastes, new desires, new judgments, new opinions, new hopes and new fears. All this is implied when our Lord declares that we all need ‘a new birth’.
This mighty change. We cannot give to ourselves.
The very name the Lord uses – new birth – gives proof of it. No person can create himself. Something from outside must happen, for us to appear!
A power from above is needed – the same power, as Paul says in 2 Cor 4, that created the world.
‘No one can see the kingdom of God, unless they are born again.’
Heaven can be reached, we can become children of God, without money, status, or education.
It is clear as daylight that nobody can be saved, can enter the kingdom, without ‘ a new birth.’
Jesus has talked about regeneration. Now he speaks about justification…
3.Source – God’s incredible love.
The Source from which our salvation springs – that source is the incredible love of God. ‘16 For 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.
The Love of God. A love that longs that every single person would be saved.
But we remember that the Lord is holy, he is against sin, evil. Jesus does not say that God so loved the world, that all humanity will finally be saved – but that he so loved the world that he gave his Son to be savior of all who believe.
His love is offered freely, fully, honestly, wonderfully and unreservedly, but it is only through the one channel of Christ’s redemption.
He that rejects Christ cuts himself off from God’s love and will perish, Jesus, in love, warns us.
4.Plan – the Cross
It is a strange plan when we consider the cross is the way by which the love of God has provided salvation for sinners. That plan was the atoning death of Christ on the cross.
Jesus said, that 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’
Lifted up. Jesus own death on the cross.
The payment of humanity’s huge debt to God. When Christ died upon the cross, our many sins- past, present, future – were laid on him. He was made ‘sin’ for us, as 2 Cor 5 says, a curse for us, as Galatians says. By his death, he purchased pardon and complete redemption for sinners.
The bronze snake. The Israelites had condemned God and Moses, sinned against God and neighbour and so snakes were sent to punish them. They turned back to God and he provided the way – to look at a bronze snake and they could receive healing, forgiveness, salvation. Salvation was within reach if they would only look.
Christ crucified in a similar way – brought eternal life – salvation – within reach of lost humanity – if only they would reach out. How can the benefits of Christ’s death be made our own? ‘’whoever believes in him.’’ Jesus says. Faith in the Lord Jesus is the very key of salvation. Our complete justification is only by faith. Without faith, there is no salvation; but through fiath in Jesus, the worst sinner of all can be saved.
We have these little red books ‘why Jesus’ which explain much more …
What a story.
Christ’s death is the Christian’s life.
Christ’s cross is the Christian’s title to heaven.
Christ lifted up – and put to shame on Calvary – is the ladder by which we enter into God’s presence and we will arrive in glory.
We are sinners –but Christ has suffered for us.
It is true we deserve spiritual death – to perish – but Christ has suffered for us.
It is true we through our sins owe God a debt of justice – yet Christ has paid our debts with his very own blood.
This is the real Gospel. This is the good news.
On this we lean and rely while we live;
to this let us cling if the day comes when we will die.
Shall we pray…
Thank you Jesus that you were lifted high for us, thank you Father that out of your great love, you sent your Son; thank you Holy Spirit for working in our lives to regenerate us, to bring the new birth.
Thank you for the journey we have been on with you, lead us forward, even if we begin feeling weak, may we end well.
Help us to imitate you Jesus, when we are with people who seek, who have questions.
Help us to help them encounter and turn to you. Amen.