A Ministry of Grace in the Heart of Andover

Nicodemus | January 28, 2018

This week we welcome Pastor Bruce Arnevik, as he takes the first part of his message to introduce himself and give a broad outline of Interim ministry as well as tell us about himself. Then we briefly will go into the Gospel story for today, which you read about below.

Dr. Lindsey Torozzo of the Baylor University School of Religion, invites us to think of John’s gospel as a play, thereby,  by the time we get to John 3 we’ve witnessed a poetic opening monologue from our narrator, a  mini-series of scenes depicting Jesus’ first interactions with John the Baptist and the disciples, and two heavy-hitting scenes that establish Jesus’ identity as the Messianic initiator of a new era of God’s work in the world and an authoritative challenger to the status quo. Then, as the lights come up, as it were,  on the scene in John 3,  we are invited to eavesdrop on Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, a “man of the Pharisees” who has made his way to Jesus through the Jerusalem streets under the cover of night. The imagery of darkness makes us wonder about Nicodemus’ intentions as he approaches Jesus.

Furthering the frame of John as drama, Jo-Ann BrantJohn, Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament, explains that Nicodemus resembles the “dissembling” character in ancient drama. This type of character actively engages the person they have approached in conversation, and their speech is marked by professions of disbelief and shock.   Earlier in the gospel Nicodemus responds to Jesus with, “How?!” (John 1:4) and “How can this be!?” (1:9) — not necessarily out of genuine curiosity, but because he is not convinced that Jesus has the authority to make the claims he is making.

Jesus responds to Nicodemus, a most incredulous opponent, with an invitation to think differently.  must be born again. This second birth is a spiritual birth, in contrast to the physical birth Nicodemus has already experienced upon his entrance to the world as a baby.

Nicodemus misses the invitation at first, because he takes Jesus’ words literally rather than figuratively, theologically, or — in Johannine terms — spiritually.7 Jesus tries to clear things up with a word picture that powerfully utilizes the double-meaning of  sprit, wind. By connecting spirit to wind, it’s as if Jesus says, “You don’t know where the wind comes from or where it goes, but you experience the wind. Even if you can’t comprehend re-birth of the spirit, from above — come experience it, come and see!”   Jesus invites him to let go of his cognitive certainty and to lean in to inexplicable experience.