3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:1-15)
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
It seems like such an odd text for Trinity Sunday. On the surface it hardly seems Trinitarian at all. And it isn’t where I normally start talking about the Trinity and the triune nature of God when I am trying to explain heavenly things to those who often refuse to believe even earthly things. I would start with the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4, hear oh Isreal, the Lord your God, The Lord is One. Or maybe go to Genesis 1:26 and recount the creation of man, “and God said, “Let us make man in our own image.” I would perhaps go to John 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. I could go many places, but I would not have chosen John 3:1-15 as a starting point. On the surface it hardly even talks about the nature of God. It talks about baptism. Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Unless one is born of water and the spirit one cannot enter the kingdom of God. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the son of man be lifted up that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. To see, to enter, to believe are all the same thing when it comes to the kingdom of God and the eternal life of which it consists. To be born again, to be born of water and Spirit, and to believe are all synonymous also. That is baptism and faith dare not be separated from each other, because it is to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit as our Lord has commanded us that faith begins by the work of the Holy Spirit who is promised in baptism as Peter explains in the second chapter of Acts. And at the end of the day, the Trinity isn’t something to be comprehended but believed, the testimony of him who has descended from heaven accepted.
Yeah, a couple years ago now, I heard a comedian making fun of Christianity, because he said, there is no way to know. Unless someone has been to heaven, no one can tell us what it is like. Well there has been someone who was there, and he has told us what it is like, and how it is that we should enter there. His claim is that he has descended from heaven. And he has come so that he, as the Son of Man, may be lifted up that those who believe in him would have eternal life.
That is a rather grandiose claim, some might even say it is a claim that only God could make. See you run into this problem, only the God who created this world is able to restore it, to redeem it. He alone knows anymore what it was supposed to look like, who we were supposed to be. The only thing we know about ourselves is that we are flawed, and broken. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure that out, all we have to do is look at our relationships. I get atheist friends complaining that the world isn’t as it should be. I’m left boggled. If the world has no creator, if the world and life is just the product of random chance and so forth, than there is no supposed to be about the world, it just is what it is. But we look at war, and say this shouldn’t happen. We look at parents losing children and know that this shouldn’t be. We see sin and corruption in government and are upset and incensed at injustice. Child pornography rightly angers and offends. All this because we know this is not who we are supposed to be, or the way the world should be. We see sin in ourselves, and know something is missing. But only our creator can restore us. And so when Jesus says that he will give us eternal life, the essence of restoration, just as death is the essence of our destruction, then he is claiming to be God. And it is this grandiose claim that he confirmed when he himself died for our sins, when he himself descended into the pits of hell and smashed her gates, when he himself rose again from the dead for our justification. That’s right, he came back from the dead. He has told us what to expect. He alone has risen from the dead, to ascend into heaven.
So in the end, we have his testimony and reason to receive it and believe it, to be born again of water and spirit, to become disciples in the name that he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to be baptized, and remain baptized that is to stay in the faith, because it is his name alone by which we are saved. Our creator who knows us better than we know ourselves and still loves us enough to die in our place as the Son of man, to be lifted up that we would have eternal life.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.