Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Saturday, March 13th: Numbers 20:22-29; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22; and John 3:1-13. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Nicodemus is an enigma. He is hard to classify. Was he a believer in Jesus or one who could not quite commit? Outside of the Bible, there is equally confusing testimony. The Jewish Talmud may mention Nicodemus as a disciple of Jesus. Other than this, the Jewish sources remain silent as to a teacher by this name, at this time.
An argument in the negative like this is not the most convincing. However, if the two are combined, the possible Jewish-source listing of a Nicodemus as a disciple of Jesus and the absence of other mentions of a reportedly well-known teacher such as Nicodemus in the Jewish literature, there is the possibility that Nicodemus did come to believe. Ancient rabbinic practice was to never mention the name of an apostate, and if Nicodemus did become a follower of Jesus, this would explain much.
But in John 3, we encounter a puzzled teacher. Nicodemus is drawn to Jesus, but is reluctant because Jesus is not what had been expected by the religious leaders. There’s a spiritual connection between Jesus and Nicodemus, but the intellectual is erecting barriers.
This is why Jesus warns Nicodemus, “‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’” In other words, you must let the Spirit lead. God is not bound by human interpretations and expectations. God will surprise, and we must remember this because it is a constant.
We will speak more of God’s surprises tomorrow at our worship Service. We will be directed to read the famous passage: “‘For God so loved the world that he gave his Son.’” If this does not surprise, then we haven’t thought about it enough.
We all face the dilemma of Nicodemus. Do we come at God with our expectations in the lead or will we allow ourselves to be surprised by God? I’ve seen many a bumper sticker that reads: God is my co-pilot. The Nicodemus pericope asks us to trust enough in the promptings of the Spirit that we allow God to be not the co-pilot, but the pilot.
If you would like to join us tomorrow at worship, please know that you are more than welcome, and this invitation goes out especially to the seekers, the ones in Nicodemus’ shoes, the ones trying to figure out Jesus. You are more than welcome to come and join other believers and seekers as part of the community of our congregation.
If you’d like, I can send you the login for Sunday’s Service. Please send me an email at email@example.com.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Massachusetts Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.macucc.org/lectionary.
Faith, love and chitchat.
Sunday 10-11am (9:30am July + August)
Children Sunday School 10-11am
Nursery care available during worship