River City Spokane

The Hike: John 3:1-21

Hey there! Welcome to Gospel Home Brew, a resource from River City Spokane. I hope that the word of God will brew in you today, as we continue with our series of studying and observing the season of lent. I’m Tim, I’ve been here in Spokane for a little over 2 years now, this is my 3rd year as a student at Moody Bible Institute, and I attend the Thursday night Gospel Home. I am glad to share with you all what the Word of God has for us to hear today; I’ll say a few words of prayer, and we’ll jump right in.

Father God, we thank You for who You are. We thank You for the new identity that You have given us when You have adopted us as your children. As a church, we believe that people are transformed when they see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. As we observe lent together, we want to see Your glory, Father. Help us learn a little more about Jesus, a little more about what it is Jesus has saved us from, and a little more about what His salvation has brought us into. We pray these things in the name of Your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Have you ever taken a walk where there are no paved roads? Like, a mountain hike; or a little trail in the forest, maybe just some off-road walk… or maybe even a walk in the countryside. Maybe you have, or maybe you can only use your imagination because you have not done anything like that yet. But the illustration I want to make is focused on the trail. You and I both know that any off-road walks can easily be identified as one of three categories: either a road that many other people have walked, a way that has only been traveled a few times, or no road (because no one walked on that part of the grass yet). Today’s passage is about someone who walked on a road for the first time, stepped on those grassy areas, and chopped up the branches. Today’s passage is about how some people have followed into this new path, yet many just shook their heads and continued walking down the already-established trail.

Today’s passage is in the book of John. Before I tell you the exact passage, let me tell you a little bit about the Gospel of John. You see, the Gospel of John is a peculiar book. Among the different views that scholars hold about why John may have written his account of the gospel, my favorite is the one that says, “let’s listen to what John, as the author, has to say about the purpose of his gospel, shall we?” In chapter 20, verse 31, John tells us that—although he did not write everything that he knows about Jesus—he wrote what he wrote in his version of the story of Jesus “so that [the reader] may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, [the reader] may have life” in the name of Jesus.

John says he wrote his account of the story of Jesus, his version of the gospel, in order to persuade us (the readers) into believing that Jesus is our Savior, the Son of God, so that by believing this we may have life. And from John’s account of the gospel, I believe we (as a community of believers observing lent) can get a valuable insight.

Please turn with me to John, chapter 3; we will read verses 1 through 21. This is the section that tells the story of the conversation Jesus had with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. None of the other gospels include this story, only John does. So, in chapter 3, verses 1 through 21, let’s see together what it is that John tries to teach us about Jesus by including this story. I will be reading from the NASB translation. John, chapter 3, starting in verse 1, it says:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

Lent is the 40 days before Easter. It is the period of time in which the church focuses on seeing Jesus; more specifically, the glory of Jesus. You may (or may not) be familiar with Christians who give up on a certain thing during this season. The idea is to give up on something that they consider important, so that they may focus on Jesus; to give up on something that they consider a distraction, so that they may focus on seeing Jesus.

With today’s passage, I want us to see Jesus the way John wants to describe Him.

The story of today can be separated into two sections: Nicodemus’ question about how to enter the Kingdom of God, and Jesus’ answer about how to get into the Kingdom of God.

The whole first half—the half of this passage that narrates the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus—is quite interesting; it sounds a little weird when you read it for the fist time; but this podcast is time-limited and I want to focus on the second half, so I can’t really say much about this half… but I do want to mention a few things about it before I move on

It’s worth noting two things: that Nicodemus is a Pharisee and that he came to Jesus by night. The first detail is interesting because Pharisees are described as the opponents of Jesus, as those who don’t really want Jesus to be around town teaching people and doing miracles; so it is interesting that Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to Jesus wanting to ask Him a question. And secondly, it is interesting that Nicodemus came by night. Among differing opinions that scholars have about this, I prefer the view that interprets this as Nicodemus wanting to keep this visit a secret. Perhaps Nicodemus did not want people to see him visiting Jesus and report him back to the rest of the Pharisees; perhaps he would have gotten in trouble with the other Pharisees if they knew that he visited Jesus. And I think this view is quite possible because the attitude we see from Nicodemus in his conversation is quite humble; unlike the attitude of the other Pharisees who approached Jesus—they usually sound like they want to pick a fight with Him.

From verse 16 until verse 21, we hear Jesus explaining to us why He came to earth.

Jesus tells us that He is the Son of God. Jesus tells us that God has sent Him. And Jesus tells us that God did not send Jesus to judge the world, He sent Jesus in order to save the world; in order to give it a second chance.

This is powerful.

As Christians, we believe that everybody is born in sin; everybody is born as a sinner. Therefore, if Jesus had come to judge us, we would all be dead. The price of sin is death, that’s what we say! So if Jesus had come to judge us, we would have to pay the price of being sinners …we would have to die.

But Jesus did not come to judge us! Not yet. When He came down to earth about 2,000 years ago, it was in order to give us another chance. We were on a one-way path to death without another option, but Jesus came to make another path; a narrower path, yes, just like any other path that is not very frequently traveled. But in exchange of being harder to find and maybe even harder to follow, it offers a better destination. And after having opened this new path, Jesus offers us a choice: will we choose to continue on the already-established path we were already walking? Or will we choose to change direction into the opposite destination? I don’t know what you want, it depends on who it is that is listening to me right now. But I know what Jesus wants. He wants us to change our direction. Why would He have come to offer us a different destination if He did not want us to come? Think about it, why would you ever offer something that you are not willing to give?

Jesus wants us to change our direction, into a different destination.

Jesus wants us to change our direction, into a different destination.

But the bible tells us—in verse 19—that people didn’t really like this new option. The bible says, “men loved the darkness rather than the Light,” so they didn’t come to the Light; they didn’t come to Jesus.

You know what? You and I were both in the darkness. That’s us. John is talking about us. But even though we were very comfortable in our darkness, the Light came to us. The Light shone into the darkness, and our darkness could not overcome this Light. So we can either choose to see, or we can choose to close our eyes.

We can choose to come to the Light, and we can choose not to. I think it’s cool how John describes Jesus as the light, and how this story talks about a Pharisee (someone in the darkness), comes—at night—towards Jesus. John doesn’t really tell us whether Nicodemus stayed in the Light or whether he went back into the darkness in this chapter. He mentions Nicodemus a couple times more later in this book… but Nicodemus is not our concern right now. Nicodemus is not my concern.

I am more interested in whether you have seen this Light. I am more interested in whether you have walked into the Light or away from it. And if you have walked into the Light, I want to know whether you are continuously choosing to stay in it. Because I know that this is the less-traveled road. I know that walking this path is not as easy as walking in the other more established trail.

But I also know that it is worth it. I have not been to the destination, so I’m not coming back at you to give you a review on what it is like and whether it is worth it or not; but I am choosing to believe the words of the one person who did go to that destination and came to us to tell us about it. And this person says it is worth it. This person thought it was so worth it, that He came to us to tell us about it and make a path for us to go there with Him!

So let us remember today, Jesus wants to change our direction, into a different destination. Let’s all cherish this hike as we walk together as a church to this better destination.

Let’s pray.

Father, we thank You for who You are. We thank You for having sent Your only Son Jesus Christ, so that whoever believes in Him would have eternal life. We thank You for what You have done in us through Jesus Christ. We want to continue glorifying You, we want to continue remembering what You have done for us during this season of lent, and we want to continue seeking your glory as it is manifested in the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Help us remember that You have offered us a new path, a different path, a more challenging road. And help us cling to You as we walk this trail together with You. We pray all these things in the name of Your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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