2nd Sunday in Lent
Genesis 12: 1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4: 1-5, 13-17; John 3: 1-17
Pearl: Deeper seeing leads to deeper faith which leads to deeper service.
Function: To champion the deeper look at life, at the world, at people, and especially at God so that faith is generated within: faith that changes us into followers of Christ who serve him (Nicodemus, the Pharisee, became a servant of Christ).
When you come to understand something you often say, “I see.”
put together the ideas of “seeing” with “knowing.”
- Many cannot believe anything unless they see physical evidence with their eyes. Thomas comes to mind when he was the only disciple who did not see the risen Jesus and when told by the others that he was alive again, he said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and in his feet, and the hole in his side, I will not believe.” And so he is ever known and remembered as “doubting Thomas.” We even advise others not to be “doubting Thomases.” Poor Thomas!
- It is true, of course that we see with our eyes.
the fact is that we also see by faith as well.
- And indeed spiritual strength, willing discipleship, devoted service in the name of Christ is generated by deep seeing!
On this second Sunday of Lent as we strive to gain “spiritual fortification for these days in which we live” I commend you to look again and again, and see more deeply!
Picture one of those images which are often passed around which sort of play tricks on the eyes. You are instructed to look at the image and report what you see.
you see nothing at first. But then all of a sudden you see an image.
- A couple of weeks ago an image of a dress was passed around in our family texting group and we were all to report what colors we saw in the dress. Everyone was sharing what they saw and the family was divided equally between those who saw white and gold and those who saw blue and white. It was a night when I was driving home from Highland and they actually wanted me to pull the car over so I could look and break the tie.
- And then there were comments about those who saw one particular set of colors as having superior intelligence. It got ugly.
you have to look again at something, you have to see more deeply to really
begin to see.
- And I will say more on this later but you often need some faith in the first place in order to see something.
- I proclaim that God provides that faith to everyone so that everyone will be able to see! I just wish that those who claim no faith would look again.
Oftentimes you have to look again and again, to see more deeply.
Nicodemus, who was a member of an order of spiritual leaders within the faith community known as Pharisees, came to Jesus under cover of night in order to “look again” to try to understand Jesus better and to understand what Jesus was about. I love that he did this! A member of this party which gave Jesus such difficulty wanted to take a deeper look.
was a wonderful encounter between Jesus and this “seeking” Pharisee. We have
some classic lines which were exchanged between them. The whole notion of
“being born again” was a part of it.
- Jesus said, “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (3:3).
- Well, all kinds of preachers and teachers and writers and commentators have said a lot about this concept of “being born from above” and what it means. Some valuable and some not so valuable.
too much is made of the concept. I think “being born from above” simply means
to look again, look more deeply, and know! Look
at the right thing, and know! Look at Jesus and know….
- Within that same encounter when Jesus
spoke some more to Nicodemus he referred to the time in which Moses was led by
God to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole so that when a serpent bit
someone they could look at the serpent of bronze and live.
- The medical community continues to use that image to represent their profession.
- Then Jesus referred to the time when he himself would be lifted up on a pole (the cross on Golgotha hill) and using Moses’ action as a metaphor for himself said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (3:14).
- Within that same encounter when Jesus spoke some more to Nicodemus he referred to the time in which Moses was led by God to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole so that when a serpent bit someone they could look at the serpent of bronze and live.
what does that “eternal life” consist on which Jesus spoke? It is not only
about life after death. Too many take it to be all about that! But that would
not be what Jesus intended when he talked about eternal life. Eternal life
according to Jesus was about:
- Believing the things Jesus showed in signs and demonstrations;
- Believing and accepting the things that he taught;
- It was about believing that the kingdom of God was present in the person of Jesus;
- It was about seeing the kingdom of God all around and amplifying it in whatever way possible;
- It was about serving the kingdom of God;
for Jesus was about representing the kingdom of God.
- Sometimes when I put an item of clothing on I am asked by someone close to me, “Is that how you want to represent yourself?”
- The question is “Are you representing the kingdom of God which Jesus revealed?”
So Nicodemus took a deeper look into Jesus and his movement. And Nicodemus saw! What he saw changed him within and he became a servant of Jesus on that very night or at least soon after. We know this from some notable actions of Nicodemus later on after that personal encounter with Christ.
- Not long after his encounter the temple police had passed up a chance to arrest Jesus and the Pharisees protested their lost opportunity. Then they began to accuse the temple police of coming under the influence of Jesus. One of them said, “Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him?” The answer, secretly, was yes. That one, Nicodemus, did not claim publicly that day that he believed in him but he defended him before his order saying, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” They were surprised at Nicodemus and actually inferred that he was softening to this Jesus.
later on after Jesus was crucified Nicodemus assisted Joseph of Arimathea in
tending to Jesus’ body, observing the proper Jewish customs in the care of the
bodies of the dead, and finding a proper tomb to bury Jesus.
- Nicodemus, the Pharisee, took a deeper, longer, and closer look at Jesus and as a result he became a follower.
For greater spiritual strength, look all around, again and again; see more deeply!
Finally, consider Father Abraham. He looked deeply and considered again and again the notion he had from the Lord that he should pick up his family and all of his belongings and go to a land to which he felt the Lord was leading him.
is a very significant figure for people of faith. After looking deeply and
looking again, Abraham stepped out. He stepped out in faith. He saw with
something deeper than his eyes.
- Abraham trusted God, and he took action based upon what he believed. He saw by faith.
- Because of this believing trust in the promises of God, the scriptures say that God therefore “reckoned him as righteous.”
- Because he took a deeper look at the promises of God he was changed. He became a new man. It was like he was “born from above.”
Oftentimes when you look deeply at the way things are and you look deeply into the kingdom of God you realize the way you need to go.
you look again and again at all that Jesus Christ is about you then believe and
you act and you serve and you become in the eyes of God: righteous. You too
become reckoned as righteous before God.
- Oscar Schindler saved over one thousand Jews from death in Germany during the Holocaust. In a powerful scene toward the end of the movie “Schindler’s List,” Oscar is standing before 1,100 Jewish people who he saved. He began to become emotionally distraught at the thought of how many more people he could have saved if he had made more money and sold more of his possessions. He laughed nervously at how much money he threw away.
was visibly distraught as he was being encouraged by them and thanked by them
for his help.
- One spoke up and told him that the Talmud commentary on the scriptures say, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” He continued saying, “There will be generations because of what you did.”
- Schindler took a deeper look at things and he understood. He knew the ways of God and he acted. He served the kingdom of God by saving as many as he did. He was reckoned as righteous for it.
Friends, look again and look deeper at the ways of Jesus, at the kingdom of God to which he constantly pointed.
As you look you will see and you will know. Let it change you. Let what you know direct you. But always look to Jesus, the Son of Man, the one who was lifted up.
And you will be reckoned righteous before God.