Pastor Dale E. Austin John 3:1-17
Good morning! My name is Jedediah, but most of my friends just call me Jed. That’s what I prefer. I was asked to speak to you this morning about my next-door neighbor. . . Normally, he’s a rather quiet fellow. Keeps decent hours, stays to himself. He’s a pretty good neighbor and doesn’t make any trouble in the neighborhood. Of course, if he did, it wouldn’t go too well for him. You see, he’s one of our Pharisees, the spiritual council which guides us, teaches us, leads us. Oh! I forgot to tell you his name, didn’t I? He’s Nicodemus – you may have heard of him.
Now, we all know that most people like to keep to a routine. Even so, pretty much everyone veers from their established patterns at one time or another. But Nicodemus? He almost never does. He’s up every morning at the same time, eats all his meals at the same time every day, even goes to bed every night right on schedule. How do I know all this? Well, I live right next door to him, remember? So you can understand why I was a little confused – even concerned – a few weeks back when late one evening I looked over to his house and the lights were still burning. It was wa-a-ay past when he would normally have been in bed, but he was still up. More to the point – he had company! I found out later that it was that traveling preacher Jesus. You know, the one everyone is talking about.
Normally, I’d just ignore Nic. He has his life and I have mine. I mean, we know what’s going on in each other’s lives because, as I said, we live next door to each other. But we also respect each other’s boundaries, so we don’t pry into each other’s business. I sure would have liked to have been a fly on the wall of his home that night, though. I don’t know what the two of them talked about, but I can tell you Nic just hasn’t been the same since that evening.
I’ve noticed that he seems to be more driven these days. Oh, he still keeps pretty much to himself when he’s at home (it’s like that’s his refuge). But when he’s out around the neighborhood, he’s always stopping people to chat with them. That’s not like him at all!
It isn’t that he’s suddenly found the secret to life and he’s got to share it with everyone. No, it’s more like he’s searching for answers. He’s asking questions, seeking out opinions on various topics – just curious in general about what people are thinking. Whatever it was that he and Jesus discussed, it got Nic wondering and searching for something. I’m not even sure he knows what it is himself.
Now, don’t get me wrong – Nic doesn’t make a nuisance of himself. He doesn’t bother people. No, he just strikes up a conversation and works in his questions. Most of the time, people are amazed at what he’s asking and eager to jump into the conversation; because whatever it is, they’ve never thought of these things before either. I’m not sure if Jesus knew what kind of a change he was making in Nic’s life that evening, but we’ve all noticed!
Mostly, Nic seems to be pondering something about being reborn. . . or experiencing a new life – something like that. I’m sure that it was something that Jesus said to him. But none of us was there, so we don’t really know what it’s all about. I can’t help wondering. . . since Nic is a totally different person after that evening. . .is this what he might be talking about at this new life? He’s more open, more friendly, more vibrant, more alive than ever before. Not that he wasn’t friendly enough before that encounter, you know. But the change is quite noticeable.
He’s a new person. He’s not who he was.
And even as he asks his questions and shares thoughts with the rest of us, there’s something about him that wasn’t there before. He’s never been cocky or arrogant, like so many of his colleagues. He’s always been a seeker, so he was much more personable than most other Pharisees. He didn’t share their attitude that they had all the answers. He was always ready for a discussion, ready to hear what the rest of us were thinking. Now that readiness has become eagerness.
He still hasn’t found all the answers, but there’s a peace and confidence about Nic that he didn’t have before. Maybe that’s what Jesus was trying to share with him.
All I know is that whatever’s gotten into Nic. . . .I’d like some of that for myself as well.