Midweek Lenten Worship March 1, 2023
“Nicodemus Speaks” John 3:1-8
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Can a person change? Can you change? Can I change? Or we just stuck? No hope for anything different? No ability to have a better life?
When I first came to Jesus I thought change was impossible. That is, under His conditions – by His words. Can you believe it – I came to Him and offered Him a compliment, “Rabbi, we know that 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.” (John 3:2) Don’t you think He should at least have given me a word of thanks? But immediately He asked for the impossible. He said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3).
What? What does that mean? He was asking for the impossible – not just physically but spiritually. He was calling for a rebirth in my soul. He demanded that I be born again – from above. I was looking for a little conversation and He wanted to rewrite the whole book. This was too much!! He was asking too much of me.
I’m not the only one who heard Him say such wild things. Once was Jesus was talking to a young man who had tons of money He called for that man to give his possessions away to the poor and to follow Him. But that rich guy just couldn’t do that. His money controlled him. He walked away from Jesus sad. (See Matthew 19:16-26)
Then Jesus told the folks who were still sticking around, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” His disciples were baffled. Weren’t the rich the people under God’s blessing? They were astonished and could only ask, “Who then can be saved?”
I thought change was impossible. I had too many obstacles for such a radical change in my life. I’ll give you three reasons that blocked me from the change that Jesus was commanding. Fear. Family. Friends. Change is not so easy when you have all that pressure from such people and situations.
I came to Jesus at night. At night you can get around and not so many people are going to recognize you, most are already tucked into bed. Put yourself in my shoes. I had much to lose by coming to see Jesus. Already He had made some enemies. I was a Pharisee. I was a member of the Sanhedrin. I came from a wealthy family and I made decisions that would influence my entire community. When I came to Him I came with fear. I could come to Him under the cover of darkness.
Could I change? Should I change? What would I lose if I became one of His disciples? I would have lost my family. I would have lost my friends. I thought I would be all alone.
Sometimes change is too costly. Sometimes just to stay where you are is safe. Maybe you know there is something bigger and better – something life changing – but can you risk it? If I did what He was saying – being born anew, again, from above – starting all over with Him as my Lord, I would have lost my position, my power, my family, my friends. I would have lost who I am.
But I did. I became a new creation. He said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:6) My flesh was weak and I knew it. I needed His Spirit to make mine alive again. When I left Him that day I didn’t forget what He said. I didn’t forget what He was demanding of me.
It wasn’t that much longer when my Pharisee friends and those in the Sanhedrin had sent the temple guards to arrest Jesus. But they came back empty handed. When asked why they didn’t do what they were supposed to do the guards said, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.” (John 7:46) Boy, did they get it from my friends. But I didn’t join in. With some boldness I asked the question, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing.” (John 7:51) My friends mocked me when I stood up for what I knew was right.
Can a person change? Yes. Is it easy? No. Is it the best thing that ever happened to me? No doubt!! Who changed me? He did. His teaching. His miracles. His invitation.
You don’t think that I could really change? You think it was just a “five-second, I’m sorry, I’ll do better tomorrow” change? I’m going to read from your Bible about this change:
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.” (John 19:38-40)
See!! In broad daylight I confessed to everybody that that dead man was my Master. I didn’t care about the consequences – I was a believer. I didn’t have to sneak around in the dark anymore. I had listened to Him. I had seen Him. I trusted in Him. And He changed me. I was born again. I was born from above. What was impossible was not only possible – it happened. Do you remember when I told you about Jesus’ teaching that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved? The disciples said to that, “Who then can be saved?” And Jesus’ great answer was, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (John 19:26)
How about you? Any hope for you? Or are you stuck? I’m not telling you my story so you can pat me on my back. I’m telling it to you so my story becomes your story because it is His story in our lives. He did all these things for our sake.
Can a person change? Yes. God can do the impossible – just as He did when Jesus died and when He rose. It’s like the hymn says, “I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad; I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.” Amen!!