Trinity Sunday 2017
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today’s text will focus on John 3:16-17 where it is written: And now God loved the world like this: The Father gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Jesus should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through the Holy Spirit might be saved. Thus far the text.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, You see our corruption in this disordered world, grant us Your Holy Spirit the way You desire to give Him to us so that we may receive and remain in Your everlasting life. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
First a little story. I was at Walmart refilling my cholesterol meds. During the twenty minute wait, I went to where they have a few Bibles for sale because I wanted to look up a verse. As I was flipping through, a voice behind me says, “I you want to buy a good Bible you should get one with ....” Now, I was in my street clothes and I had never met the guy before. I said, “Oh really” and listened. He didn’t want a conversation. He wanted to talk. Quickly he changed topic to how Christianity is used to subjugate people. The topic changed to how Islam only wants to control people with religion and force. He said all religions are the same and all governments are corrupt. I still had time before my prescription was ready so I rolled up my evangelist sleeves and said, “You are right. All religions are the same, and Christianity is the same as all the other religions - except Christianity has one little difference.” The man was surprised at my response but agreed. He told me he didn't believe in any religion because they are all the same. But I added, “Christianity is the same as other religions except for one difference.” He was starting to look at me as if I was the creepy Walmart evangelist and wanted to get away but talked a little longer and then we parted ways.
He never took the bait. He never asked me, “What is the one little thing that makes Christianity so different?” So, being Iowa nice, I didn’t force response on someone who clearly didn’t want to listen. That was enough for one day.
The thing that makes Christianity difference is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing like it anywhere in creation.
Nicodemus wanted to talk to Jesus. Nic wanted to talk at Jesus.
The text gives us some good information about Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and the Pharisees were role models for everyone. The were the wisest, most disciplined, and kindest people. They followed the law of Moses. A second thing about Nicodemus is that he was no ordinary Pharisee. Nicodemus was on the ruling council of the Pharisees. He was respected not only by the people but also by the Pharisees. And Nicodemus did not share the growing opposition to Jesus held by the Pharisees. Nicodemus could get into a dangerous situation if he opposed his colleagues and the people because of sympathy toward Jesus. So Nicodemus went to Jesus at night thinking Jesus would praise him for being a good Pharisee and together they could clear up any misunderstandings.
But Jesus isn’t so Iowa nice with those who teach against the Gospel.
Jesus rebukes Nic immediately with the heart of the Gospel, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you are born from above you will never see the kingdom of God.” Old Nic is confused. To see the kingdom of God you need a Divine birth which is a birth from above. Everyone is born of the flesh but few are born of the Spirit.
Again, Jesus solemnly proclaims to Nic, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you are born from above by the Holy Spirited-water, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. It is not two births but one. It is not a birth by water followed by a birth by the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is born from above by the Holy Spirit-water. Holy Baptism.
Jesus clarifies, “Truly, truly I say to you, We (the Holy Trinity) speak of what We know and bear witness to what We have seen, but you do not receive Our testimony.”
The earthly comparison of what Jesus is saying to Nic is in the Old Testament writing for this morning. The Israelites were unbelieving so God sent snakes to bite them and many died or were dying. The Israelites were then aware of their unbelief cried out for mercy. So God had a bronze snake made and placed up on a pole with the promise, whoever is bit and looks to the snake will live. You could call it a Holy Spirited-snake.
On a much grander scale, for all people, God had His only-begotten Son lifted up on a cross to die. This lifting up comes with a command and a promise to all people. The command is that it is necessary to be baptized or you will die. But the promise is that with this Holy Spirited-water baptism you receive a birth from above which gives you eternal life.
Now your heavenly Father loved this fallen disordered world like this: He gave His only-begotten Son. Jesus is the atoning, or blood, sacrifice for your unbelief. The Father is pleased with His Son, twisted like a snake on that cross. And now those who are baptized and believing in God only need to cry out for mercy. This believing, this faith of Christ is the work of God for you.
The young man I met at Walmart had a lot of knowledge about the Bible and other religions but he had faith in no one but himself. But saving faith is not knowledge but trusting Jesus at His Word. Nicodemus had a lot of knowledge but he did not trust Jesus. Another thing these men shared is that they have not received Holy Baptism or taken Jesus at His Word.
Truly, truly, Jesus Christ the God-man does not need to judge anyone because men have already been judged. The condemned are already condemned because they are unbelieving. The saved are already saved because they have received a Holy Spirited-watery baptism in which they received the faith of Jesus and even now cling to Jesus who continues to teach them about this eternal life which is theirs now and always. This faith is the work of God.
That faith is now yours. You were among the condemned. But now you are those who have also been born from above. You are baptized. You trust Jesus at His Word. And both baptizing and believing is the work of the Holy Triune God.
Finally, if you hear any rumors about me at Walmart, I am probably waiting on a prescription and, as I’m given opportunity, also waiting to give away this Gospel in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, guard and keep you in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.