2nd Sunday in Lent (A) February 17, 2008
Seeking Jesus (John 3:1-17)

On a star-studded night, Jesus sat at a table with the light flickering in the breeze on a friend’s rooftop retreat, poring over the scriptures. The darkness either of early morning or night seemed to be the best time for Jesus to be alone for contemplation, prayer, reading and thinking. No crowds bothered Him, no one reached out for special attention, no activities swirled around Him.

Yet, on this particular warm evening, Jesus heard footsteps climbing ever so slowly the outer stairs leading to His sanctuary. Turning to see who it was breaking into His concentration and meditation, he observed a man dressed in the robes of one of the most prestigious religious sects of Israel…that of a Pharisee. His name? Nicodemus.

He represented one of the six thousand Pharisees in Israel known as the CHABURAH or brotherhood. Like the rest of the brotherhood, he had taken a pledge before three legal witnesses that he would spend all of his life observing every detail of the scribal law. The truth is, he would rather die than break one of those laws.

Commentator RVG Tasker says that Nicodemus was more than a teacher of Israel. He was “the” Teacher of Israel. If a question arose concerning the Holy Scriptures, everyone turned to him as the Authority. The late Dr. Ralph Earle called him “the most distinguished member of the Sanhedrin.” This man’s youthful vigor and zeal had become mature knowledge and ageless wisdom. He had distinguished himself as a scholar, communicator and teacher. All of Israel knew his name. But for all his fame and scholarship on his quest for God, the personal relationship eluded him.

Listening to Jesus – the home grown, uneducated carpenter’s son turned itinerant Rabbi – intrigued Nicodemus. Jesus’ message resonated with relationship with God. He seemed so at ease when talking about God, as if they were on speaking terms and not just religious terms. To Jesus, God was not a case study from the Torah, but alive and real as well as involved in life. This concept struck a chord in Nicodemus’ heart.  Ascending the steps in the hush of the night began the journey of discipleship for Nicodemus for the rest of his life.  It transformed his academic pursuit to a heart pursuit of God!

Today Jesus calls us to that same pursuit with which He challenged Nicodemus that night. Nicodemus was an authentic seeker that night; maybe you are, too. Maybe this is your day to begin that journey.

 I. An authentic seeker looks for Jesus earnestly and inquisitively (v. 1-2).

Connie Willems asked, “Remember when-maybe back in high school-you had your eye on someone but weren’t sure he or she noticed you? Did you ever ‘happen’ to be where that person was at a certain time each day?” In an article written for Discipleship Journal, she asked several people that question and she said that it generated both laughter and stories. Some responded, “Oh yeah! I knew exactly when to walk down a certain hallway at school, in hopes of seeing him.” “I didn’t really need a soda, but I would go through the McDonald’s drive-thru to get one anyway, because that’s when she was working.”

Willems writes, “We may laugh at what our younger selves did, yet that eagerness to pursue relationship is what we want …Too often, our devotional lives focus on routines and methods. But when we’re interested in someone, our ‘routines and methods’-walking down a certain hallway, idling in line at the drive-thru-are not the focus; they are merely means to making a hoped-for connection. She continues, “We can be sure that hope will be fulfilled when we make an effort to connect with God. God not only sees us in the crowd, He invites us to rearrange our lives to spend time with Him.”[1]

Nicodemus’s thirst for truth and relevance led him out of the crowds to a nighttime encounter with Jesus. It was time for him to move from routine to relationship. How about you? Is it time to move from routine to relationship?

II. An authentic seeker wants to connect with Jesus (v. 2b-15).

Notice the interplay throughout this passage. There is a give and take of question, reflection and pulling for truth. Authentic rapport begins to develop as the two men dig deep into the questions of life. Can you feel the emotions brimming over as the two lock into conversation?

Nicodemus: “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

Nicodemus: “How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (Catch the emotion of the ridiculous in his voice? He questions the truth…how can I believe you when you speak so foolishly.)

Jesus: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit…You should not be surprised at my saying.”

Nicodemus: “How can this be?” (Sense that he thinks this is foolish.)

Jesus: “You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things?” (Catch the frustration in the voice of Jesus?)

There is incredible dialogue-two-way conversation-going on between them. God wants that with us! He wants to carry on a two-way conversation that allows us to question and think our way to truth. The Lord is not afraid of our questions; He wants us to question, desires to know our hurts and hopes to hear our deepest emotions! That is connection at the most meaningful level!

III. An authentic seeker can learn that God loves him (v. 16-17).

The lesson of life that lasts begins in the depths of God’s infinite love! Here Jesus say, “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son (me) into the world…” The creator God, all-wise, all-caring, all-understanding God loves us so much that Jesus was sent to redeem us!

Twenty years ago I heard an interview with Ann B. Davis, who was Schultzie on the old “Bob Cummings” TV show and then worked as Alice on the “Brady Bunch.”  The host made mention that a lot of her old friends thought she had gone into a convent because of her new residence. After a little laughter she very pointedly and kindly said, “No, I live in a Christian community.” She continued, “I’ve always known that God is love, but not until about twelve years ago did I know that God loved Ann B. Davis.”

We each one need to find that God is love…a personal God of love that can change our lives! (Derl G. Keefer)

[1] Discipleship Journal Issue 161, Sept/Oct 2007, Vol 27/No. 5, page37.

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