Notes towards a sermon:
Nicodemus – victory-people – (Nike – demos)
John –used for the gospels in Lent (A –Matthew, B-Mark, C-Luke) – parallel stories – this week – Nicodemus – next week Samaritan woman.
In the world of John there is a split between the Jews who followed Christ and those who did not. – a religious split that you can see referenced all through the Gospel of John – why there are such harsh words for “the Jews” – it is a gospel that has been used to justify terrible things- yet it arose between kindred and close friends and neighbors.
It is also a world where you are born into a certain status and you stay there – you don’t move. Your honor is dependent on who are “your people” – until fairly recently in history – this was the case – you might as well not try – unless you could somehow become attached to a higher status family – that was the only possibility. Jesus in this is shaking the very foundations of society in this passage. No wonder Nicodemus is confused about the idea of being born again. His reference to the wind blowing where it chooses is scary not reassuring – but yet
Nicodemus is a seeker—though he is a Pharisee, a leader of his people – he has not found a home in his faith. (Jim and I – where is home?). Else why would he come to Jesus. In the night – not only perhaps so no one would see him but perhaps also symbolizes “being in the dark” as we might say – about his relationship to God. I wonder if he had something happen that shook his faith? That caused him to wonder, “where is God?”
Jesus has come to the one who offers healing – healing for the whole world through those who follow him. Moses lifted up the snake to cure the people. Jesus will be crucified for confronting the divisions of the world and offering a way of healing. His death will show the world that death is not the end. Death is separation and believing that some humans are better than others – not a way of life.
Abram was also a seeker – in his world you did not take off from your ancestral homes – but he felt God calling him out of his settled life – to go out to be a blessing for the whole world.
Neither Nicodemus nor Abram (who we now call Abraham) were called to stop with themselves and their close kin – they were called to be a blessing – to bring a new understanding to the world. Paul refers to Abraham’s faith – that there was one God who could be trusted to keep faith with humankind. Nicodemus by the end of the Gospel is bringing a hundred pounds of spices and oils for Jesus anointing after his death – “hundred” – unheard of - his conversion – his love for Jesus showing in this over abundance.
I think these readings give us hope – no matter where we are on our journey in faith. Whether we are confused and wondering like Nicodemus or if we are stepping out in faith like Abraham. The key is asking the questions and walking the path of life. Perhaps as Rilke says:
to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.