Second Sunday of Lent - Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Lent
Friday March 14th, 2014
Second Sunday of Lent
John 3:1 - 17
"he came to Jesus by night and said to Him, 'Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.'"
Nicodemus, we are told, came to Jesus "by night." The time indicator is telling. In the symbolism of John's gospel, night or darkness describes the character of this world, of human beings as those who "preferred darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (3:19). Yet we should not be too hard on Nicodemus. True, he came by night; but he did come, and had one of the most extraordinary conversations in all of human history. Nicodemus comes because he wants something. Call it salvation, call it the kingdom, call it God. And what Jesus tells him is that "you can't get there from here." Flesh begets flesh, history begets history, the way things are only begets more of the same. Jesus' words "you must be born again" sounds almost like a Zen koan, an absurd claim that invites the listener to look at the world in an entirely new way.
You can't get there from here, Nicodemus! You must learn to look for help elsewhere-to the wind that blows where it will; to the Spirit, whose character is to breathe and bestow life. You think that you are old and tired, that nothing will ever change-you ask "how can a man be born when he is old?" (3:4). It's a good question, a human question. It's just that it's not a very relevant question, now that the Son of Man is being lifted up and the Spirit is moving to give life. Give up on trying to produce the Spirit. Just let the Spirit do its thing. God's promise is that there will be a new Nicodemus, a new self, no matter how old and tired the old Nicodemus may feel.
It seems that something like this may have happened. Later in John's gospel there are hints of a change in Nicodemus, who, we are told, defended Jesus against the Pharisees (7:50) and cared for Jesus' body in his burial (19:39). Nicodemus' story wasn't over, despite his initial protests.
Lent is the yearly reminder that our stories aren't over, and that God makes space in the world he "so loved" (3:16) for new life and faith and obedience. When we are tempted to give up, let us think of Nicodemus, whose life was blown off course forever by his encounter with Jesus.
send your Holy Spirit upon us so that we may keep a holy Lent. Help us, who are tempted by the darkness, to embrace your light. Help us, who crave life, to find the life the comes to us in Jesus. In His name we pray, Amen.
Dr. Joseph Mangina
Professor of Systematic Theology at Wycliffe College, began his theological studies at Yale Divinity School. Dr. Mangina has written two books on the thought of Karl Barth and has recently published a theological commentary on the book of Revelation. He is also the editor of Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology. Professor Mangina was on sabbatical in the fall semester. He used the time to begin writing a book on ecclesiology (theological reflection on the church) in dialogue with the gospel of John."