Have you read chapters 2 and 3 yet? Ready to dive into some reflection time? Let’s do this.
Do you ever think it’s peculiar that Jesus’ first “sign”, as John calls it, was to keep the party going? Sometimes when we picture the God of the universe, we picture him in his glory, holy and set apart. Or we picture his wrath, bringing justice for his detest of sin. Or we picture him filled with compassion and mercy, lifting up the poor and downtrodden. Rarely do we ever picture the God that also values JOY and celebration, who lavishly pours out the finest things for those he loves. However, all these things are true of God. This miracle at this wedding, not only restored the honor and reputation of the wedding hosts, it also gives us a glimpse of God’s abundant kingdom. His kingdom is full of celebration and relationships and yes, good wine. Take a minute to picture this side of God…the God who isn’t stingy in his blessings. No matter what you are going through, or what today holds, allow yourself to celebrate, to receive from God’s abundance, and to experience his joy.
Ah yes, the whip-yielding Jesus. This is also one of our favorite sides of Jesus. While we learned in the last section that Jesus loves to celebrate…we now see that he also knows what to hold sacred and when to show some righteous indignation. While John’s account of these events show us more of Jesus’ character, John’s main reason for including it was to state the radical claim Jesus makes when the Jewish leaders challenged his authority. As we know, the whole reason John is making record of these events is so that we would BELIEVE that Jesus is the Son (incarnation) of God himself…not simply some great teacher, not just a guy who could do some miracles, but the actual living God, present with us on earth. So we’ll ask you again, who do you say he is?
Verse 25: “No one needed to tell him (Jesus) about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.” YIKES. While we probably cognitively know this to be true, we might sometimes forget that Jesus has a laser-beam, night-vision glimpse in to the depths of our soul. He knows our motivations, our deepest longings, and our most hidden fears. (spoiler alert: he loves you anyway). We’re going to do something together right now that’s a bit risky probably uncomfortable. You up for it? Ask Jesus to search your heart. Allow him to point out the areas of your inner-being that need to have some light shed on them. Will you take the risk and take an honest inventory of your heart?
NICODEMUS (not the wee little man, that’s ZACCHAEUS; he’s in the book of Luke). No, Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a religious leader, a man who was supposed to understand the heart of God better than others, but just like the rest of us, he gets confused. While we’re sure he had long been awaiting the coming of the Messiah, Jesus wasn’t exactly what uber-religious people were expecting…and he pretty much blew Nicodemus’ mind. It should also be noted that Nicodemus came to Jesus like a spy, under the cover of darkness, afraid that the rest of his Phari-friends would see him associating with this controversial rabbi. Anyone else ever fretted about how their relationship with Jesus would affect their reputation? No, just us? Ok. Moving on.
This interaction with Nicodemus contains some of the most famous scripture that every football fan can probably quote. However, just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean it should be glossed over and assumed we understand it. Like Nicodemus, allow it to blow your mind all over again.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to enter the kingdom of God, you must be born again. And like every good Jewish leader, as an expert of the spiritual realm, he takes Jesus literally. Sigh. You see, Nicodemus had been so focused on doing the right things and saying the right prayers, he forgot what was supposed to be at the heart of his religious faith…his love and relationship with his Creator. (Let’s not count Nicodemus out yet, we have a feeling we’ll be seeing him again.) Nicodemus was all about the behavior modification, he had never considered that what he needed was an entire do-over. Like God says in Ezekiel 36: “ I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” We don’t just need to try harder not to sin, or sprinkle in a bit more Jesus in our lives. We, like Nicodemus, need an entire heart transplant and a Holy Spirit baptism.
LET’S. MAKE. IT. PERSONAL.
What does it mean to be born again? Have you experienced this re-birth? Be honest. Have you been simply trying your hardest to be a “good Christian” or have you allowed the Holy Spirit to give birth to spiritual life? You see, when we enter into a relationship with Jesus, there is something supernatural that takes place. We are no longer bound to the things of this world but we have been given a new life and a new heart. While the (good) habits we form can put us in the right position for life-change, its the Holy Spirit that does the work of transforming us. Don’t move on quite yet. Spend some time here pondering God’s transformative power. If we want to live FULLY ALIVE in Jesus, we can’t miss this point.
JOHN 3:16…say it out loud with us. We could spend the rest of the year just dissecting and ruminating on this one passage of scripture. There’s a reason it’s so famous. But instead, let’s just spend some extended time resting in the truths declared in these verses. God LOVES the world. Despite the selfishness, the brokenness, the wickedness, God STILL loves the world. Let’s not be tempted to despise what God says he loves. If you believe in Jesus (not like head knowledge, but truly trust him with your life), your life will not end. Jesus came to the world NOT to judge it…but to SAVE it. There is NO JUDGEMENT against you. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Rest in God’s love and saving grace for a few minutes.
“God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” It can be easy to read these words and focus on how bad and dark and scary the non-believing outside world is. However…you know us, and know that we are always about turning your attention back to your own heart. LET’S BE CLEAR. If you are in Christ Jesus, you are a part of the light party. As we learned in chapter 1…the darkness cannot come and extinguish the light in your life. However, there are times, and corners of our hearts that still crave the darkness and fear exposure. Ask God to turn on the light. We know it’s scary. Turning the light on in a room after such a long period of darkness is shocking. Let’s take it a step further. If there’s an area of your life that desperately needs the light of Jesus, take a risk and confess it. Not just to God, but to an actual human as well. This is the first step toward real and lasting healing. And if you’re still too scared, go back and read the last verse about how there’s no judgement against you.
Our good buddy John the Baptist, back again. As everyone who encounters Jesus seems to leave more confused than they were before meeting him, John seems to know exactly who Jesus is. It’s probably because he knew what to be looking for…and unlike the religious leaders of his day, he also had an accurate depiction of himself. He knew the role he needed to play and was humble enough to fade to the background in order for Jesus to be illuminated more fully. Spend a few minutes reflecting or journaling. Where do you need a little dose of humility. Have you let some competition get the better of you? Have you found yourself being jealous or resentful of the success of others? Ask God to reveal your role to you. Stop trying to fulfill the roles of others…especially if your motivation is to earn attention or praise. God wants you to be YOU. He created you for a unique role in his kingdom. It’s time to start living in to who YOU were created to be and celebrate as others grow and flourish in their roles. It’s a big kingdom and there’s lots of work to be done.