Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Nicodemus in us

From his carefully administrated club meeting, Nicodemus left and went exploring. He knew the verdict of the experts. He was on their panel. And their judgement was: Jesus is a troublemaker and needed to be gotten rid of.

The Nicodemus in you and me.
But Nicodemus' heart was not satisfied with their answers. On the one hand, the Pharisees believed Jesus had some tie-in with God. He was, after all, doing miracles and giving profound teaching. But on the other hand, he had really ticked them off by wrecking havoc in the temple courts.

Maybe it was that passion. Maybe it was seeing fire in Jesus' eyes that sent Nicodemus where he should not go. Maybe he wanted fire, and was tired of administration.

Can you relate to Nicodemus? Have you ever grown tired of running your part of the church: your class, your board committee, your group, your task, your tithe? Have you ever wished you were working with fire, rather than having a job to do? I think that is just what Nicodemus was feeling.

Nicodemus didn't however, go down the mountain looking for a fire somewhere else. He didn't raise a stink about his Pharisee teacher or the High Priest/CEO of the Sanhedrin. He didn't gossip about the lack of passion in his committee. He went to the source of the fire he'd seen. The one with the whip and the flashing eyes.

Harsh Words for a Religious Leader
But Jesus makes it kind of tough for Nic. He doesn't take it easy on him and cut him slack. He doesn't teach him with simple words. He speaks poetry to him. Allegory. Analogy. He gives him a brief, yet vitally sincere responses.

"Unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God."

And when that doesn't work, he adds, "Unless you are born of God's Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God."

And in these two short statements--he tells the general superintendent, the Bishop, the guy on the Senate committee...he tells him two things:

"You can't see God's work.
you don't know how to be a part of it."

I think the truth of these next words must have weighed heavily on Jesus. "You are on God's elite teaching team....How will God ever communicate his ways to the world, if even you don't understand them?"

Could John 3:16 be only the consolation prize?
(I know I'll get some guff over this.)
Finally Jesus speaks our favorite of his words. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes on him, will have eternal life. For God didn't send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."

These words, it seems to me, are the grand consolation prize. "Sure, if people believe in me, if they look to me in faith, they will live forever."

But that isn't the point! "Nicodemus, I'm looking for kingdom people. I'm looking for people born of the spirit and living in his power. I'm looking for radical apostles who will go into the world and change it by the power of God's Spirit and for the purposes of God's will".

What Would the World Look Like If???
Now, as I write this I'm thinking, the Kingdom (or reign) of God is God's plan to set the world right. To end hunger and hatred. To pull people together beyond all prejudices, to make the rich care about the starving, and the do-nothing system manipulator care about doing his part to care for himself and others. I just believe that Jesus came to prepare a people who would change the way things are done in the world.

But when his people--or at least those of us who borrow his name--stay busy doing stuff to build and enhance the status of our empires, everything turns to waste. Since the motives are selfish and not Jesus-ish, then they turn sour...sour enough to make those who have tasted his power want to puke.

I'm afraid most Christians watch dark headlines with a sinister interest in world-doom, rather than making headlines creating God's Kingdom come.

World Changers Settling for Heaven Only.
It's almost like Jesus is saying: Nicodemus, it is in your DNA to be a world-changer, and you are stuck in your religious thinking! I'm afraid the best I'll be able to offer you and most religious people is eternal life in Heaven, because of course, God didn't send me to condemn the world. But what I need you to be is a wrecking ball to religion, and the very hand of God to bring change to this needy and lost world."

Ready to go exploring?

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