“Hey Nic, Don’t Quit Your Day Job” March 8, 2020
“Hey Nic, Don’t Quit Your Day Job”
Genesis 12:1-4a/ Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:16 was the verse through which Dwight Moody the famous preacher, evangelist, and missionary, of the middle 1800s learned to appreciate the greatness of God’s love.
Moody had been to Britain in the early days of his ministry and there had met a young English preached named Henry Moorhouse. One day Moorhouse said to Moody, “I am thinking of going to America.” “Well,” said Moody, “if you should ever get to Chicago, come down to my church and I will give you a chance to preach.” However, he was merely being polite.
So when Moorhouse showed up in Chicago, it just so happened that Moody was going to be out of town the next day. Moody said to his wife and to the leaders of the church, “I think that we should let him preach, once. Let him preach once; then if the people enjoy him, put him on again.” Moody was gone for a week. When he returned he asked his wife, “How did the young preacher do?” “Oh, he is a better preacher than you are,” his wife said. “He is telling people that God loves them.”
“That is not right,” said Moody. “God does not love sinners.”
“Well,” she said, “you go and hear him.”
“What?” said Moody. “Do you mean to tell me that he is still preaching?”
“Yes, he has been preaching all week, and he has only used one verse as his text, John 3:16.”
Moody went to the meeting. Moorhouse got up and began by saying, “I have been hunting for a text all week, and I have not been able to find a better text than John 3:16. So I think we will just talk about it once more.” He did. Afterward Moody said it was on that night that he first clearly understood the greatness of God’s love, which transformed his famous ministry.
It’s something, isn’t it? It’s something that even a preacher – a person who was educated in the word of God – it’s something that even a man of the cloth, as they say, might somehow miss out on the magnitude, the glory, and the power of this special love of God; a love that is so magnificent that it offers new birth. When Nicodemus approached Jesus in the dead of night, he did so at considerable risk to himself. I mean, think about it: Nicodemus was not only a high member of the temple priests, but he was also a member of the Jewish ruling council. You don’t get to this position of power and authority by making mistakes. Yet, here he was consorting with the enemy, you might say. Bottom line is that Nicodemus was an old teacher still looking to learn. (vs 2) Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one can perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him. At this point, Jesus, the teacher, doesn’t waste any time as he tells Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God until they are born again.” Poor Nic, at this point, almost comically misses the point that Jesus is trying to make.
Now the key word here is the Greek “an’-o-then.” It can mean “anew” or “over again” – born anew, born over, which is how Nicodemus understands it; which, I admit, had to have been a bit confusing. But it can also mean “from above” as in “of things which come from heaven or God.” If you wish to see the kingdom of God you need to be born; you need to start over; you need to be totally remade from above. You need to be “from God” said the man who was ‘from God.’ Nicodemus was a believer in the God of Israel – we have to believe that. He believed – he understood – the law of Moses. He believed in a just God, a merciful God; he believed in a God that would rescue his people in their agony and would punish them for their sin. As a Pharisee, he believed in the 100’s of years of tradition and instruction from the books of Moses and the Talmud. Imagine his confusion as this man “from God” spoke of being reborn- reborn in the overwhelming love of God.
If you want to get a good argument going, just question someone’s beliefs. We hold onto our beliefs hard and fast. But here’s a little something: did you know that the English word “believe” comes from the German “belieben” – the German word for love. It was Diana Butler Bass that pointed out, “To believe is not to hold an opinion. To believe is to treasure. To believe is to hold something beloved. To give our hearts over to it without reservation. To believe in something is to invest it with our love.” When Dwight Moody listened to the young preacher read from the gospel of John, 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 – when he heard these words, they were nothing new. He knew the scripture well – probably preached on it lots of times. But I have a feeling that Mr. Moody discovered something that evening. I have a feeling that even though he considered himself a true believer, he had never really known the joy of believing. It’s easy to preach hell and damnation. If you are in a position to pick on folks because of their sins then….well, that’s easy pickings. But the joy of believing – the joy of salvation – that can only come from a heart that knows the love of God….and that God is Love.
As for Nicodemus, as far as we know he went back to his day job. We heard from him in the 7th chapter of John’s gospel where he stood up for a man who was being mistreated in a court of law. But the last we heard of Nicodemus, who remained a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council until his death, I suppose, is that it was Nicodemus who supplied the spices necessary for burial after the death of Christ. And it was Nicodemus, along with a man named Joseph of Arimathea who took on the gruesome task of preparing his body for burial.
We are in the season of Lent: a time for looking in, of self-examination. It is a time of repentance and reconciliation. During this time, let’s remember again and again that it is the wondrous love of Christ that leads us to believe, and it’s the wondrous love of Christ that warms our hearts. The love of Christ, our love for Christ; this is our blessing, this is our joy.
Amen & Shalom