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Feast of the Holy Trinity

John 3:1–17

James T. Batchelor

Holy Trinity, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, May 31, 2015 

This morning we once again heard how Nicodemus came to Jesus by night.  Once again we have the opportunity to realize that there were honest Pharisees men who were eager to hear and consider Jesus in an honest and fair way.  Nicodemus had heard of the miraculous signs and the teachings.  He knew that Jesus was no ordinary rabbi.  He was ready to hear Jesus and consider His teachings.  Nicodemus greeting indicates that Nicodemus thought of Jesus as a man of God.  In time, the Holy Spirit would convince Nicodemus that Jesus actually is God.

Jesus responded to Nicodemus by telling him that the Kingdom of God comes by way of a new birth.  3Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3) There are several characteristics of birth that come to mind when we hear Jesus say this.

Birth is an activity that is totally passive for the person being born.  Two years before birth, a person does not even exist.  His or her parents may not even know each other.  He or she has no choice as to how his or her parents meet, or how or when they come together.  When the pregnancy comes to full term, the baby does not crawl out of the womb, but is pushed out by the mother.

Our entry into the Kingdom of God is a process that is totally passive on our part.  We cannot choose to enter the Kingdom of God.  Instead, the Holy Spirit calls us into the Kingdom of God by the Gospel.

Birth also introduces every person to an entirely new existence.  Food and oxygen no longer come through the umbilical cord.  Instead a person must suddenly eat and breathe.  The body no longer floats around in a warm, protective fluid.  Now there is gravity and the air is colder.

Our entry into the Kingdom of God introduces every person to an entirely new existence.  We are now part of the body of Christ.  We now have eternal life in Him.

Nicodemus struggled with the idea of being born into the Kingdom of God.  He said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mothers womb and be born? (John 3:4) With these words Nicodemus confesses that he does not understand.  It is as if he said, Jesus, You are using the idea of birth in a strange, new way.  I dont understand.

5Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:56) With these words, Jesus teaches that there is a fundamental difference between the birth that brings us into this world and the birth that brings us into the Kingdom of God.

If Nicodemus were to enter a second time into his mothers womb and be born, it would just be another birth into this world and not into the Kingdom of God.  Before God he would still be dead in the trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1) When Jesus says, That which is born of the flesh is flesh, we should remember the words of the Psalm, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5) We are all born into this world as sinners.

Instead, Jesus teaches a different birth a birth of water and the Spirit a birth that sounds a lot like baptism.  He is describing this birth when He says, That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. This is the birth into the Kingdom of God.

Jesus compared His teaching about the new birth to the wind.  Jesus continued and said, The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8) Even today, with our weather forecasting technology, we dont always get it right.  Any meteorologist will tell you that there is still a lot about the weather that we dont understand.  So with these words, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he doesnt need to understand the new birth any more than he understands the blowing of the wind.  It is enough to believe that the Holy Spirit provides the new birth as the entry into the Kingdom of God.

Nicodemus cant keep up with Jesus.  He is honest enough to admit his confusion by asking, How can these things be? (John 3:9) Although this question indicates the confusion of Nicodemus, it also indicates the respect Nicodemus had for Jesus.  Rather than surrender to his confusion in frustration and leave, he continues to trust Jesus to teach him.

Jesus continued to work with Nicodemus by revealing the cause of the problem.  Jesus answered him, Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. (John 3:1011) Nicodemus does not understand because he resists the testimony of Jesus and the prophets who came before Him.  The teachings of Moses, the writings of the prophets, and the psalms all point forward to the Messiah.  As a Pharisee, Nicodemus has most of these writings memorized, he has even taught on them, but he has not received them.  Nicodemus struggles with the teaching of the Holy Spirit because He has not received the main teaching of Gods Word.

Jesus then proceeded to give Nicodemus the central teaching of the Bible.  He continued and said, No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:1315) With these words, Jesus identified the Son of Man as the Son of God Who descended from heaven and took on the flesh of man in order to become the Son of Man.  He then stated that this very same Son of Man will be raised up on a cross just as Moses raised up the serpent in the wilderness.  The result of the work that the Son of Man does on the cross will be that all who believe in Him will have eternal life.

Jesus then went on to proclaim what many people call the Gospel in a Nutshell. He said, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:1617) With these words, Jesus teaches that God shows His love toward us by sending His only begotten Son into the world in order to save the world from sin.  The mission of the Son is not to condemn the world, but to save it.

So Jesus was teaching Nicodemus that all human beings are born of the flesh.  This means that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own.  We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.  But the Father of all mercy and grace has sent His Son Jesus Christ, who atoned for the sin of the whole world that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

The reason Nicodemus had such trouble believing in the new birth of water and the Spirit is that he was concentrating so hard on the law contained in the teachings of Moses, the writings of the prophets, and the psalms that he had not noticed the Gospel in those writings.  He did not receive the good news that the promised Messiah would not come to condemn the world, but to save it.  Since he had not received the testimony of the salvation worked by God, he could not deal with the new birth into the family of God.

We can give praise to Almighty God that Nicodemus eventually did receive the testimony of Gods Holy Scriptures.  We know that he eventually became a Christian for the account of him in todays Gospel is not the last time we read of him in Holy Scripture.  We hear of him one last time shortly after Jesus died on the cross.  After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. (John 19:3839) It is so interesting that it is a couple of Pharisees who supervise the burial of Jesus in the tomb.

The account of Jesus and Nicodemus can teach us a great deal on this Trinity Sunday.  Jesus taught that God shows His love for us by sending His only begotten Son into the world in order to save the world.  He taught that, like the serpent in the wilderness, the Son would be raised up on a cross in order to save the world from sin.  He taught that the Holy Spirit gives the gifts of salvation to us by giving us a new birth into the family of God.  The struggle of Nicodemus shows us that if we reject the work of any one of the members of the Trinity, we reject them all.  On the other hand, when the Holy Spirit brings us into the family of God by the new birth, we receive all the blessings that our gracious Triune God has for us including forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.  We have indeed been blessed by

God the Fathers grace for

God the Sons sake through

God the Holy Spirits gift of faith. Amen



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