Nicodemus came after supper to Jesus, to have a conversation and see if he could not understand what Jesus was teaching and how he, as a teacher had gotten it wrong (John 3.1-18). The Gospel this week, introduces some themes that are important to the Faith and asks a question that every person needs to answer at some point. The question? Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God?
In this section of John’s Gospel, ideas and themes like salvation and condemnation, being sent, the Son of Man being lifted up, rebirth and the gift that God has given humanity (all flesh) in sending his Son to us are just some of them.
But first, let’s deal with who or what a disciple is. In a recent conversation, I pointed out to someone that a disciple is not someone who gets to flaunt their own opinion and do whatever they feel is right and forget the consequences. As Jesus demanded of Peter when Peter insisted that Jesus was going to be the Messiah that the people thought he should be, that Peter get behind him and get back in line as a follower. Peter needed to hear this and to get his mind on the same agenda as Jesus. This is something that Peter struggled with throughout the rest of his ministry, including in the Garden of Gethsemane when he pulls out a sword and cuts off the High Priest’s servant. He is still right to the last, trying to build a different kingdom from what Jesus was working on.
A disciple is a person, who first and foremost, is a person who has been given a rebirth, a spiritual birth, a new life by God. A disciple is a person who has been birthed through the physical (water) and the spiritual (the Spirit). A follower of Jesus has been rescued from death and given life (birth) from above. Such a life comes from seeing and recognising Jesus for who and what he is: the Son of God and God’s messiah.
This means that each and all of us have a simple choice to make when we see Jesus for who and what he is – do we believe it or not? Will we participate and trust God in this faith or not? Because as it is pointed elsewhere in Scripture, “There is no other name given under heaven to men (flesh) by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12-13) Either you accept what God has done for you in Christ or you choose to reject it. The choice belongs to each of us.
And as we make that consideration of what to do and to believe, we need to remember that God sent Jesus to us because he loves us and desires us to be with him. God reaches out to this God hating empire by sending his one and only Son so that those who choose him should have to perish but have eternal life. The purpose of the Incarnation was for people to have a choice because apart from God there is no life; only death. It is only in Christ that we begin to truly live. You cannot have a relationship with a dead person, only a memory whether it is Christ or someone else.
Followers of the Lord Jesus are not perfect. What they ought to be is repentant and they know where to seek forgiveness. Disciples are people who are on their way to being made perfect in their relationship with God and then with creation. There is no health, no help, no rescue that we can accomplish in our own flesh that can do what Jesus has done for us; not just on the cross and in the grave, but even more so in the life that he lives towards the Father in the here and now. Seeing Jesus and participating in his risen life, gives us life; eternal life, his life.
Like Nicodemus, we have a choice to make: we can live with the status quo and hope that we get enough things right to be good enough for God or we can choose to accept and participate in the life and community Christ is building which will lead to eternal life. And if it is consolation, Nicodemus is not recorded here as having an answer, but he is shown to be with Joseph of Arimathea when the Church needed them most on Good Friday. He did choose.
What do you choose?