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John 3:1-17 Very truly, God tells us that he is our Savior!

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The time for graduation speeches is upon us. Many students, faculty, special guests, friends and parents will look to impart closing wisdom to graduates. One piece of wisdom I would encourage is curiosity because it will help you to be a lifelong learner. Curiosity brought a man named Nicodemus to learn more about Jesus and his words impacted Nicodemus beyond what he thought he knew. Jesus used his words to give Nicodemus faith in the one true God, just like he has done for us.

Memorial Day weekend is a time for curiosity. This weekend is a time to learn about the individuals historic, modern and loved who sacrificed their lives to protect and preserve our freedoms and our lives, and the sacrifice of the family and friends they left behind. It is a time to listen to what was done for us because at no point can you disregard the effect of their sacrifice on your life. Respect, humility and gratitude fill our hears when we hear what others have done for us.

Many are curious about God, but curiosity was not the first thing Isaiah felt when he saw the Lord. In our Old Testament reading from Isaiah 6, we hear of the vision the Lord gave Isaiah in which he called Isaiah to serve him as a prophet. Isaiah saw the Lord on his throne, and we hear, 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

The seraphim covered their faces and feet out of respect for God. Isaiah knew the Lord deserved the highest level of respect, so being in his presence overwhelmed him as we read, 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Fear filled Isaiah’s heart standing in the presence of the holy God. If there was any curiosity to be had by him, it was about the speed and severity of God’s judgment against him for his sins.

It seems that fear of other people rather than God characterized Nicodemus’ encounter with God. In our Gospel reading from John 3, we hear that Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, went at night to talk with Jesus. Nicodemus was curious, but also aware of his peers’ prejudice against Jesus. Night gave Nicodemus the chance to hear Jesus explain the source of his power to do miracles and his authoritative teaching unnoticed. Nicodemus thought he knew a lot about God, but Jesus, the Rabbi or ‘teacher,’ showed Nicodemus that he was at the Pre-K, not postgraduate level.

Curiosity that leads to life-long learning about God is a gift. From exploration of the wonders of the created universe to the passionate pursuits in philosophy, our individual curiosities chase after so many things. Unfortunately, when those pursuits end in theories of chance and evolution, and many conflicting ‘my truths’ we do not find God. Similarly, when we turn the Bible into a book of morality or a license to sin, we have abandoned God. We cannot know God unless he tells us who he is. The Bible is his message for us and we must take him at his word. Very truly, there will come a day when all of us will stand before the throne of God, and if we have not learned who he is, if we have not been brought to repentance for our sins, if we do not have faith in him as our Savior, then that day will mean woe, fear and ruin forever.

Jesus does not teach for the sake of knowledge, but to give the gift of faith. Nicodemus saw Jesus’ miracles and had questions. It was not yet faith, but curiosity. So, Jesus began teaching him as we read in John 3, 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus began teaching with a phrase reserved for the end of a lesson or prayer. “Very truly” or literally “amen, amen” was spoken to confirm a message.

By speaking it at the beginning, Jesus made it clear that he needed no affirmation; his teaching was truth. Jesus spoke directly to Nicodemus’ greatest need, which was to be brought into the kingdom of God, but Nicodemus did not understand the spiritual truth Jesus was sharing. So, 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. Jesus contrasted the earthly, dust, fleshy, sinful birth with being born again or better the literal from the Greek, born “from above”, from heaven, from God by water and the Spirit.

Baptism is the means by which God gives us a birth from above. Baptism is not something we do to be saved. It is what God works through to save us washing us clean of our sins, drowning the sinful nature and raising us to a new life of faith and membership in his kingdom. The miracle of baptism is hidden because the work is done by the Holy Spirit as Jesus illustrates in John 3, 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Jesus continued to fill in the blanks for Nicodemus. Jesus’ teachings were still not clear to Nicodemus as we read in John 3, 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. 10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

Jesus showed the difference between knowledge and understanding that comes from faith. Jesus’ testimony along with most likely John the Baptist’s testimony was not accepted. However, Jesus’ words commanded respect and he gave the reason; 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Jesus is the Son of Man who came to this world to share the heavenly truth that he had come to give eternal life.

Then, Jesus connected his purpose for coming into the world with an Old Testament account from Numbers 21 that Nicodemus would have been very familiar with, 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” Because of their sin, God sent poisonous snakes to bite and kill many Israelites, but he offered them healing and life by looking up at a bronze snake made by Moses and lifted up on a wooden pole.

Then, Jesus spoke what have become some of the most cherished words of all Scripture, 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Nicodemus like all of us cannot know God unless he tells us who he is. Jesus tells us plainly that the one true God is the God who loves all of us, who loves with action for us, who sent Jesus to be condemned to death for our sins, who was lifted up on a wooden cross, who has saved us, who washed away our sins, who gave us the gift of faith, who gives eternal life to all who look up to him, who made us members of his heavenly kingdom. Today we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday. In John 3, Jesus teaches us about the work of the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit to love, save and give eternal life to us.

Jesus told us all we need to know to be saved. God saved us so that we would have eternal life. Our Creator wants us to live and live with him at peace. God beautifully illustrated this for Isaiah when he was filled with fear and confessed that he was a sinful man of unclean lips. In response to his reverent fear, we read in Isaiah 6, 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

By the grace of God, Isaiah was saved, and God filled him with respect, humility and gratitude. We have been saved by the same God who has given us new words to speak as we hear in our New Testament reading from Romans 8, 15 … And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. By the work of the Trinity, we are heirs of eternal glory with Christ, our brother, and children of our Father because the Holy Spirit’s testifies that we are no longer enemies, strangers or sinners. God’s gracious gift of understanding, knowing and believing in him means we call him our “Father.”

Memorial Day weekend is a time to talk about those who sacrificed their lives to protect and preserve our lives and freedom. We cannot disregard the effect of their sacrifice on our lives. Every time we gather for worship and Bible study, we talk about Jesus’ sacrifice to save us. At no point can you disregard the effect of Jesus’ sacrifice on your life; he is the foundation our faith. May God be with us as we live in freedom and face sufferings for our faith. Whether we gather by day or at night around the Word of God, let us be filled with respect, humility and gratitude as God tells us who he is.

The time for graduation speeches is upon us. Curiosity is often encouraged because it makes for lifelong learners. My encouragement is to have lifelong curiosity about God. Nicodemus was curious to learn more about Jesus, and through his words, Jesus gave Nicodemus faith in the one true God, his loving Father, redeeming Son and life-giving Spirit. In fact, we read in John 19, Joseph of Arimathea who took Jesus’ body down from the cross, 39 … was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. You too will see Jesus’ scars in heaven because very truly, God tells us that he is our Savior. Amen.

Gunnar Ledermann, Pastor Divine Peace Church

Gunnar Ledermann

I’m passionate about Rockwall’s vibrant community and actively engage with local non-profits and community organizations, including the Rockwall Chamber of Commerce, the City of Rockwall, and the Downtown Rockwall Association. My background includes a bachelor’s degree in Classical Languages and a master’s degree in divinity. Currently serving as a pastor at Divine Peace Church in Rockwall, I also enjoy spending time with my wife, Marinda, and our three children.

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