I wonder if Nicodemus knows what he’s getting into. What draws him to Jesus? What motivates any of us to come to Jesus?
Lent | Fourth Sunday in Lent (Year B)
Numbers 21:4-9 (Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22); Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21
The binary world of John’s Gospel is well drawn in Jesus’ talk here, and unknowns frame the verse. How could a God of love condemn people? What does it mean to be in darkness?
The preacher faces several challenges in these Ascension texts. How can we present Jesus’ departure from the earth as an occasion for not sorrow but celebration? How to translate the kingship and hierarchical language into imagery that speaks to a world no longer governed by kings and monarchs? Feminist biblical scholars note a third challenge: How can we counter Luke-Acts' use of the Ascension to exert a degree of social control?
Jesus and Nicodemus might as well be speaking different languages. Jesus speaks of birth from above; Nicodemus is befuddled. Jesus speaks of the spirit as wind blowing where it will; Nicodemus wonders how this can be. They are like a creationist and a paleontologist comparing notes on fossils--they simply can't fathom each other. Their organizing assumptions are too different. Here's when we sense that Nicodemus begins to understand what Jesus is saying: when Jesus reinterprets the story of Israel in the wilderness, drawing from the language that has oriented Nicodemus's life and thought. It doesn't seem likely, after all, that the series of puzzling metaphors Jesus begins with would push Nicodemus to understanding. But something clearly does.