God with us - Week 13: John 3:16
There's a meme that I've seen on various social media platforms with the title "He calls the unqualified." It lists multiple Bible characters alongside their "worst" characteristic or most shame-inducing life event. I understand its purpose and take great comfort that God can use anyone for His glory, despite their apparent flaws. Having said that, I think it's interesting how easily we can characterise people in the Bible based on one or two stories.
We hear a name, and the association begins…
While delving into this week's Scripture, it became apparent that I had reduced Nicodemus to a timid, not so wise night owl who only had the guts to talk to Jesus when everyone else was tucked up in bed! That's the story I heard as a child and the story I carried into adulthood. In the first few verses of John Chapter 3, we discover that Nicodemus is a Pharisee committed to a life of holiness. He's well respected in the community and a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest court of the day. Rather than fear motivating his night time visit, maybe it was necessity. After a long day at work, he chose to seek out Jesus and meet with him. Maybe he knew if he went in the evening, Jesus wouldn't be surrounded by crowds vying for attention. Nicodemus was a confident teacher of the law grappling with complex ideas every day. Would he really have been too scared to have a robust religious discussion with Jesus?
When I looked at the Scripture again, I no longer saw an uncertain man scurrying around in the night. Nicodemus sat down with Jesus and spoke with confidence.
"Rabbi," he said, "we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you."
Nicodemus knew who Jesus was; he just had a few questions that needed answering. Like we all do!
It was Nicodemus that got to hear firsthand the most well-known Bible verse in the world.
"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
When I saw that the 'God with us' Scripture for this week was John 3:16, I thought, "what on earth am I going to say about that? Everyone knows it inside out and back to front."
But that's the whole point.
We do the same to Bible verses that we do to Bible characters.
They become familiar, comfortable, and if we're not careful, we never revisit them with Nicodemus' questioning heart.
Last week we prayed like Paul; this week, we're going to learn like Nicodemus (yeah, I know that doesn't quite work, but you get the idea). Holy week will be filled with familiar stories and Scripture, including John 3:16. Many of the Jewish leaders thought they knew everything there was to know about religious life and Scripture. Nicodemus was different as he knew there was still so much to learn.
As we move through Holy Week, I'm inviting you to find Jesus each evening and sit with the words of John 3:16.
What do these words really mean to you?
How do they change how you see yourself? How you see others?
Don't just skim over the familiar text.
Set aside a time in the evening with no distractions to meet with Jesus, just like Nicodemus did.