Sermon Series: There’s More to Life
Message 1 of 5: Nicodemus
Scripture: John 3:1-17
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 3/24/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.
It would make sense that you get to a point where you’ve been studying and training in something and you feel you don’t need a coach or teacher anymore. You have mastered the topic or skill.
But the truth is we always need teachers, mentors, and coaches. I have a masters of divinity, but I in no way have mastered divinity.
Who pastors the pastor? I have a spiritual director named Pam. A spiritual director is different from a counselor or teacher. A spiritual director asks, “How is your soul?” and then recommends spiritual practices to keep me connected to God and spiritually healthy.
In January, Pam reminded me of this promise: The fullness of Christ is ours. What would it be like to continue to ask for more and more? There’s always more!
That took us to Ephesians 3:16-21. This Lent, we’re using this beautiful prayer to pray for the fullness of Christ to be made real in the lives of others. (individuals or groups of people)
Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen ___________. Fill ___________’s soul with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in his/her heart. May love be the rich soil where ________’s life takes root. May it be the bedrock where ___________’s life is founded, so that together with all of Your people, he/she will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God may Your fullness flood through __________’s entire being. Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen.
The theme of power is repeated 3 times in this prayer:
- Power for strength
- Power to know Christ and understand the depth of his infinite love
- Power at work in us to do awe-inspiring things
This is what I long for, what I’m seeking, more and more of the Spirit, Savior, and the Father. Maybe you do, too. Would you pray this prayer for me sometime this Lenten season? I know I can’t receive the infinite gifts of God in my own strength. What would it be like for you to walk up to someone and say, “Would you insert my name this week in the prayer?” Anyone would be delighted to do that for you.
Nicodemus was longing for and seeking this as well. He appears 3 times in the Gospel of John. The beginning of Jesus’ ministry, in the middle defending Jesus, and at Jesus’ burial. A person who grows in his faith and the infinite love of God.
John 3:1-2, Nicodemus is introduced
Pharisee- literally “Separated One”
- Separated himself out for God, distinguished himself, by strict discipline in the study of God’s Word and applying the lessons of the Scriptures through rituals that he might lead a pure, holy, clean life
- No separation between what he does for a living and who he is as a follower of the One True Living God, integrated life
- Seeker of truth, Seeker of God, dedicated his entire life to this
- Rabbi, Teacher of Israel, maybe even THE teacher
- Pharisee of Pharisees
- One of the best minds in Israel and it has served him well as he rose to an elite position
- We don’t know if he was born into a family of advantage or if he worked his way up to his position of power, influence, respect, prosperity, security
Member of the Sanhedrin – the Great Sanhedrin of 71 judges in Jerusalem, the ruling council of all Israel
Nic at Night
- Did Nicodemus come on his own to see Jesus?
- Did the Sanhedrin send him in an official capacity?
- “We know you are a teacher who has come from God”
- They heard of the miracles
- They heard his teaching
- Turned over the tables in the temple
- Sanhedrin sends Nicodemus, their brightest, best, most respected to check out Jesus
- Root out people pretending to be the Messiah to maintain the fragile peace with Rome
- Go at night. This is how the Sanhedrin does things, sneaky things – under the cover of darkness. Don’t go in the daytime, it might legitimize Jesus.
He’s come to find out who Jesus is- and Jesus tells him. But Jesus is also going to tell Nicodemus about Nicodemus. Jesus is going to look into his soul and see his seeking and trying and how it’s falling short. Nicodemus, there is more. Nicodemus, even after all you have earned, learned and achieved there is more.
Quote from Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire A lifetime of studying and teaching the word, and now Nicodemus is face to face with the Word incarnate. He comes in darkness, now he stands in the glowing presence of the Light of the World.
Reading John 3:1-10
If religious training were enough then Nicodemus would have all he needs for the fullness of God. If self-discipline were enough… If power and position were enough…
How many times do we strive after the things of God like Nicodemus? We pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and put on our big girl pants and we stand and we learn, learn, learn and practice, practice, practice.
Jesus says you can’t have the Kingdom of God in your own strength. There is more and it is available to you.
Nicodemus is baffled because this is what he thought would work and it hasn’t. It won’t. He’s baffled to find what does work in this poor, homeless, uncredentialed rabbi from nowhere.
Imagine yourself listening to Jesus alongside Nicodemus.
- The cool of the night, the quiet of no modern noises, wind
- Where are you? In old Jerusalem? On the Mount of Olives?
- You must be born from above. You must be born again. You must be born of water and Spirit.
- Sence of openness and delight and invitation.
- Come, sit at my feet. Let me be your rabbi, your master. Come, let me be your Messiah, Savior. You do not need to strive this way to save yourself.
- Come and know me, and know true power- the life-transforming power of the Spirit
- Come and know me, and receive the power to understand that God’s divine love is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced
- Come and know me for I am Love
John 3:16-17 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. 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.”
The life of a Pharisee was a life of struggle and condemnation. Jesus was offering Nicodemus life. Just as Jesus is offering us life. ‘
You must be born from above. You must be born again. You must be born of water and Spirit.
Many of us do not remember our baptism. We were carried into the arms of the church by a loved one. Baptism is always about recognizing God’s grace more than recognizing our work.
But there must be many moments, when we say, “Yes, I’ve been born of water. I’ve been named and claimed by God in my baptism. But God I desire to be born of Spirit as well. Your holy presence alive in me, awakening me, saving me from me trying to save myself.”
Invitation to be baptized for the first time or reaffirm your baptism and to ask God to be born of water and Spirit.
Nicodemus Sermon © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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