Sermon Outline On John 3:1-17
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
An elderly farm couple began “recycling” their garbage long before it became fashionable. They separated their waste into containers for “things that get burned,” “Things that go to the dump,” “Scraps for the dogs” “Scrapes for the cats.” And for their organic garden, they even had a special pail for leftovers for the worm bed.
One day the wife was explaining their recycling procedures to her granddaughter. She said, “Nancy dear, this bowl is for meat scraps for the dogs, and this one is for the cats, and this pail is for vegetable leftovers for the worms.” With this last instruction, little Nancy looked at her grandmother in admiration and exclaimed, “Grandma, you feed the worms? You must be the most Christian lady in the whole world!”
Nancy thought that feeding worms surely made her grandmother “The most Christian lady in the world.” Nancy didn’t have it quiet right. But how many of us don’t have it quiet right? How many think that going to heaven is a matter of doing good and being good? How often do we talk in terms of earning our salvation?
In this passageÂ something strange is happening in this conversation between Jesus & Nicodemus. Nicodemus is talking about Jesus being a teacher come from God, and all the signs Jesus has done. For the writer of this gospel signs meant miracles. Nicodemus spoke of miracles and teaching.
Jesus response to Nicodemus had to do with being born from above and seeing the kingdom of God. Born from above? What does being born form above and seeing the kingdom of God have to do with teachings and miracles? Jesus and Nicodemus seem to be talking to each other, but they don’t seem to be communicating. If this conversation seems confusing to you, maybe it’s because it was confusing to Nicodemus.
Nicodemus takes this being born literally and asks, “How can an old man be born again? He certainly seems confused about this new birth thing. However, Nicodemus may not be as confused as these words would indicate.
The New Jerome Biblical commentary suggests that Nicodemus was using a typical opening for debate by taking the most literal meaning possible. Regardless of whether Nicodemus was using a debate technique, he still didn’t get what Jesus was talking about.
John says that Nicodemus came at night. Some would say that this was for his protection. He wanted to follow Jesus in secret. Nicodemus was a member of the sanhedrin. He was a ruler of the Jews, a Pharisee. He could not be seen with Jesus. John liked to use words with double meaning such a light, bread, water, temple. Just maybe John was using the word night in a more symbolic way. Maybe Nicodemus came in the darkness failing to see the proper way to relate to Jesus. Maybe the darkness was between Nicodemus’ ears.
Nicodemus had focused on the signs given by Jesus. He said in essence, “I came to believe because of the signs.” Fred Craddock suggests that Nicodemus saw life in God’s realm as being “achieved, calculated, or safely fixed on a faith that has been proven by signs.”
Nicodemus’ faith was based on the signs of Jesus. Nicodemus believed because he had seen miracles. Nicodemus wanted to follow Jesus because Jesus was a charismatic leader. Jesus rejects the idea of a faith based on signs. Remember Jesus after the resurrection says to his disciples, “You believe because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Jesus speaks of being born of the Spirit. Jesus compares being born of the Spirit to the wind, the wind that blow were it chooses, the wind that you hear but do not know where it goes. The wind that we can experience, but have no control over. We can stand in the wind and feel it, but we can do nothing to change its speed or direction.
To be born of the spirit is not in our control. It is not something we do. It is a gift from God. This entire conversation with Nicodemus is about God’s love. Jesus speaks of life that is offered by God yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He speaks of God’s gift of life.
As Jesus refers to Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness, he is speaking of God’s gift of life. This story from the book of Numbers tells of the chosen people being saved from snake bites by God’s grace. Jesus wants Nicodemus to know of God’s love. Jesus wants Nicodemus to know of God’s gift of life. Jesus is speaking of GRACE. God’s unmerited love for us.
Jesus is speaking of ETERNAL life. And what do we do to achieve eternal life? We do nothing. God did it for us.
Jesus says, “the Son of man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” And how was the Son of Man lifted up? He was lifted up on a cross to die for you and for me for the forgiveness of our sins.
And what do we do to earn this eternal life? Absolutely nothing! We cannot earn something given to us. God GAVE his only Son that we might have life eternal.
How much did God love Nicodemus? How much does God love us?
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
The good news is God’s love is a gift.
The good news is God gave his only son for us.
The good news is God loves us that much.