Monday, March 2 – John 3:1-17
God sacrifices His Son for our salvation and our everlasting life! Wow! I hesitated to select this passage for a meditation because it encapsulates so much of the Christian message in just a few phrases – phrases that have been parsed and interpreted by saints and scholars through the centuries. But I identify with Nicodemus, a very human member of the religious establishment in Jerusalem, who was comfortable with his position yet curious and open to the ministry of Jesus. I understand Nicodemus’ spiritual openness, but I also can appreciate his discretion in making a private visit to Jesus. He wanted to learn more, but he wasn’t ready to risk making huge changes in his life. For me and maybe you, there is always the tendency to keep my mind focused on the “here and now” as I deal with the requirements and distractions of my everyday life, and to avoid or minimize experiences that challenge those priorities. My commitment to attend Sunday worship and to spend time in daily prayer and meditation is an important counter balance to this tendency, and over time has changed the way in which I experience life. As a pharisee and “teacher of Israel,” Nicodemus also spent time in worship, daily prayer and meditation on holy scripture. His decision to meet with Jesus arose from his desire to further understand God’s presence in his life and in the world.
As we learn in John, Nicodemus sought Jesus out and questioned Him about His knowledge of the kingdom of God. Nicodemus’ question about whether a person can be born again by passing twice through his mother’s womb is probably a rabbinic dialogue device aimed at eliciting further information by offering an absurd interpretation of Jesus’ initial statement. And Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ desire to understand Heaven with great patience and love. In a few words, Jesus describes His earthly presence as intended to redeem all of humankind through His miracles, teachings and sacrifice.
When I ponder these words of Jesus, I am overwhelmed by the love that God offers to us so freely, love that transfigures our earthly lives and leads us to eternal joy if we only accept it. As a choir member, I love to sing the chorus “God So Loved the World” from John Stainer’s “The Crucifixion” (there are some good recordings on YouTube) because it so movingly presents these words of Jesus’ promised love that are at the heart of Christian faith.
Prayer: Dear God, thank You for offering spiritual rebirth and eternal life to us all. Help me to be like Nicodemus by seeking to become more attuned to what is holy, and by seeking to understand and experience Jesus’ message of divine love and redemption. Help me to order my life so that I maintain and strengthen my faith and my decision to follow Jesus’ example and teaching now and always. Amen.