Jesus says, “You must be Born Again, Born Over, Born from Above”

a sermon based on John 3: 1-17,

Nicodemus -- a Pharisee -- came to see Jesus one night. It was to this man -- a ruler of the Jews, a respected elder; a Rabbi, highly regarded by the people; a man, who was trying to live an authentic, faithful life according to God's Laws -- that Jesus made some of his most famous statements, including the one our choir just sang for us as this morning’s anthem:

"God loved the world so much that He gave his only Son ... So that everyone who

believes on him will not die, but have life that begins right now and goes on

forevermore." (3:16)

Nicodemus was an elder among the people, a ruler of the Jews. He was a scholarly man – for he would not have held office as a member of the Sanhedrin Council (the governing body in the Jewish Temple) had he not been considered wise. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus would have been schooled in the finer points of Scripture and its interpretation -- because the Pharisees were the "blue bloods" of ancient Judaism, with their un-bending attention to every detail of the Law.

Beyond that, Nicodemus’ parents had apparently done what a lot of well-meaning parents do: saddled him with some high expectations. You see his name "Nicodemus" literally means (in Hebrew) "conqueror of the people." That’s some high expectation, if you ask me! The boy had a lot to live up to. And from what we know of him, he’s done really well to become somebody.

Because of that, I am all that more proud of Nicodemus that he came to Jesus -- this un-educated, un-credentialed, young contrarian from the North country (from rural Galilee) -- to ask him about the Kingdom of God. The erudite Pharisee would’ve been far more used to answering the questions of others, rather than posing questions of their own.

But when they meet, Nicodemus calls Jesus "Rabbi" (teacher) and goes on to admit that there is something really special about the signs & wonders that Jesus has been performing, all of which lets him know that "God is present" with Jesus. (The Hebrew word was "Immanuel" – God with us.) In other words, this wise & wealthy Pharisee – this worldly "conqueror of the people" Nicodemus -- comes to Jesus in a role that he is not all that familiar with: the role of a humble supplicant. He has come to learn about God from Jesus.

I appreciate Nicodemus! Most folks are too proud to ask for insight from others. In fact, that’s one of the overarching themes of Sophocles’ tragedy "Antigone". This aftern