St Mark’s Lenten Thoughts, Wednesday in the First Week of Lent

Henry Ossawa Tanner – Jesus and Nicodemus

Lent Week One—Wednesday

Deut. 9:13-21 Psalm 119:49-72 Heb. 3:12-19 John 2:23-3:15

In John 2, Nicodemus, leader of the Pharisees and the most renowned teacher of his day, has come to Jesus under cover of night, to question Him. “Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Poor Nicodemus simply cannot see beyond his own elitism, knowledge, and ego. He ridicules Jesus rather than uses reason to try to understand Jesus’ point of view. He only wants to defend his own position. He cannot muster the faith to believe that Jesus has come from God, even though he (sarcastically) tells Jesus that he knows this to be true.

What is it that keeps Nicodemus from understanding and believing? How is he so different from Simon and Andrew who literally dropped their fishing nets and followed Jesus. Nicodemus cannot understand, because he is caught up in his own theology, the theology of the Temple, which was designed to maintain the social order and to justify rule by the elite.

Could Psalm 119 verses 67 and 71, be hints? “Before I was humbled, I went astray, but now I keep your word” and “It is good for me that I was humbled so that I might learn your statutes.” Are we too ready to take control for ourselves, to translate the Trinity only by our human standards, not to wait on the Lord, but to cast for ourselves our own graven image of God as in Deuteronomy 9? Yes, yes, and yes.

So what important lessons can we learn from Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus? Hebrews 3 reminds us to “Take care brothers and sisters that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” Jesus himself tells us when he tells Nicodemus, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above…no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”

Our Baptismal covenant has all the answers:

§ Persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent, and return to the Lord

§ Proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ

§ Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself

§ Strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being

I will with God’s help. Amen.

Pat Viser

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