I love how the lectionary reminds us to put things in context.. Today included is one of the most quoted passages. John 3:16. I am so pleased that verse 17 of the speech from Jesus is included because I often feel like those banners you see at the football miss a very important part of the story.
Lets start from the beginning Nicodemus one of the religious leaders of the time comes to Jesus in the middle of the night. I love that Jesus doesn’t belittle him or hassle him that his faith wasn’t enough that he could come in broad daylight, he meets him right there. The things Jesus is trying to teach him are not easy for him to understand, which is interesting because if anyone should be able to understand right of the bat it should have been someone like Nicademus, he was one of God’s chosen. When I think about it Nicademus question was very Greek in his thinking and Jesus was using Hebrew story or metaphor to explain something. “What are you saying an old man like me needs to climb back in my mother’s womb and be reborn how is this possible?” Jesus explains you have to let go of what you know and trust God in a new way. Jesus reminded Nic about when he had heard this happening before, you know how God works, remember about the snake in the desert and see how much better their lives ended up because of it. You can trust God again.
This week I was given some advice by a professional that was very counter intuitive for me, I felt a bit like Nicodemus, you want me to do what? Are you sure about that? Like Jesus and God, this person was trying to teach me out of love, in essence to help us. The head flip was not an easy one for me or for Nicademus but it doesn’t make it less important. I could have kept going with things as I always had and we would have continued to struggle, or I could let the old ideas be washed away and let the new ways give me a new idea and hope.
I return to our famous saying..
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
I’m sure you can tell by my art today that love is the priority here, God who is far more than we can see or know, hidden in the mystery but known through the movement of the Spirit. This God chooses to step into our world, your world, my world, sending God’s Son to save us almostfrom ourselves.God loves us and is deeply connected and protective of us, of this world and all that are in it. I wonder how often left to our own devices we would choose to move and breathe in a place of love and grace? Yet I now know that from living this life to make the most of every human being, everything on the planet, this is the only way it can happen. Through love.
17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Part of the mindshift for Nicodemus was to understand that God wasn’t condemning him, but was trying to help him.
This week we are in the second week of Lent, a time of reflection particularly on our own relationship with God. For me the reading this week has challenged me to unpack where I miss the point and get stuck with God. I fearfully put it before God in the hope I will not be condemned by the harsh reality of my struggle. To see this engagement between Nic and Jesus it makes it a little easier to sit honestly and open with it, in the hope I will grow, knowing I am not condemned but given a chance to learn.