Here’s a sermon I preached on the Second Sunday in Lent, March 12, 2017, at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Johnsonville, PA. The text for the sermon is John 3:1-17.
Mrs. Nicodemus was sitting in her chair. She glanced out the window, and saw that the sun was setting.
Then she turned and looked at her husband, Mr. Nicodemus, who was pacing back and forth. She said, “What’s wrong? You seem restless this evening.”
He replied, “It’s that new teacher in town; the one named Jesus. I don’t quite know what to make of him. My friends say he is just one of those self-appointed preachers who show up from time to time. You know the kind. They wow people with their personal charm. They make a good speech or two. They get people all excited. But they lack substance, and so they fade away. My friends say that Jesus is just another of such flash-in-the-pan preachers.
“But I’m not sure. I think there’s something real about him. It seems there is something in him that is truly of God. At least, I think there might be.”
Mrs. Nicodemus asked, “So what are you going to do about it?”
Mr. Nicodemus said, “I need to talk with him. And to get to know him a little better. I’m going to do that right now.”
“Now?” said Mrs. Nicodemus. “But it’s dark outside.”
“I know,” he replied, “but I’m restless, and don’t feel much like sleeping.” So kissing his wife good-bye, he stepped out into the darkness.
He was thankful for the darkness. What he knew, but didn’t tell his wife, was his real reason for going to Jesus at night. He didn’t want anyone to see him; his friends would not approve of his visit. He knew what they would say, and he didn’t want to hear it. So he was glad for the cover of darkness.
And what Nicodemus was not yet able to admit to himself was that the night was symbolic of his spiritual state. Oh, he wasn’t on the verge of losing faith in God. But something wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t the way it used to be. Something was missing.
Nicodemus made his way to Jesus. They talked. Then Nicodemus returned home. His wife had waited up for him.
She asked, “How did it go?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied, shaking his head. “It was, well, odd. After we greeted one another, I said, ‘You are a teacher come from God, for no one can do the signs that you do apart from God.’
“And he replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’
“I had no idea what he was talking about. So I muttered a question about how someone can enter the mother’s womb a second time, and again be born.
“To which he said, ‘No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh, and what is born of the spirit is spirit.’ Then he added something about the wind and the spirit blowing wherever they will.
“I was befuddled by his words. I’m not sure what I said to him next, but it was something to the effect of ‘What on earth are you talking about? I don’t get what you are saying.’”
Then Nicodemus said to his wife, “I’m more puzzled than ever. And yet, I have this nagging feeling that what Jesus says is truly of God.”
“So what will you do now?” asked Mrs. Nicodemus.
He said, “I don’t know. I don’t think there is anything I can do other than ponder his words. Maybe some kind of sense of the whole thing will come to me later.”
Mrs. Nicodemus said, “It will come. In time, God’s Spirit will give you what you need. Now rest peacefully, and sleep.” Then she kissed him good night.
Several nights and several days and several weeks went by. Then one morning, when Mrs. Nicodemus awoke, she looked out the window, and saw the sun was rising. She walked into the next room, and saw her husband sitting in a chair. His head was in his hands, and he was crying.
For a moment, she was frightened, afraid that something was wrong. But she quickly sensed that these were not tears of sadness, but of relief and joy.
As the tears were falling down his cheeks, he looked up, smiled, and said, “It’s beginning to come to me. I’m starting to grasp what Jesus was saying to me.
“He’s saying something like this: ‘Nicodemus, you have come to me because you want to fall in love with God again. You once loved God, deeply and passionately. But the fire is gone. You’ve lost the child-like trust of knowing how much God loves you. Nicodemus, open your heart to a love waiting to be born anew.”
Nicodemus then said to this wife, “New birth! To be like a child again! To receive love like a child! Trusting in the hands that feed and bathe you! Enjoying those who put you to sleep at night, and those who pick you up in the morning! Like a child again—trusting the people who embrace you in love.
“That’s what Jesus was talking about. That whatever our age, we can be like new-born children. For God is enfolding us in a love greater than anything we can imagine! And we are invited to trust God, and be renewed in God every day.”
He stopped for a moment, and looked out the window.
“What a bright and glorious day,” he said, “filled with the light of the sun in the sky and with the love of the Son of God.
“Ah, to be born anew.
“To be a child again.
“To fall in love with God again.
“It’s a very, very good thing!”