Reading today, Psalm 56, John 3:1-21
Jesus said some crazy things. One of the craziest is, “You have to be born again.” It’s not so crazy because of the content but because of the context.
We look back at the statement in John 3 with 2000 years of theological understanding and it makes perfect sense. Billy Graham, if he did nothing else, would be historical for making this phrase as common in the modern vernacular as, “Take me out to the ball game,” and “Whazzz Up?” But even in Jesus’s day surely the metaphor would not be lost on most people. Born again. New start. Turn from your old ways and begin a whole new way of life. Nicodemus didn’t get it but most people would, wouldn’t they?
It’s the context that makes this statement crazy to me. Jesus is just kicking off a fledgling ministry. So far He has had mixed reviews. He got his first paying gig at a wedding where He brought the house down by turning water into wine. (John 2) On the heels of that success His revival in the temple was kind of a bust when He turned over tables and made the religious crowd mad at Him right off the bat. (Also John 2) Not the way to get invited back next year for the Jerusalem 1st Church Annual Campmeeting.
Now He gets a chance to get His ministry back on track. Nicodemus comes under the cover of darkness. Old saint Nick is a pretty influential guy. He is well known and well respected. He’s a fairly wealthy dude. And he is a high up in the religious uppity ups. He’s the kind of guy we want on the board of our ministry. (No offense Dr. Chitwood.) If we can get Nicodemus on our side, we can get back in the good graces of the church leaders. We will be speaking at all the right youth conventions. Who knows? We might make the cover of Today’s Preacher magazine. This is the opportunity we have been “praying” for.
Then Jesus says, “You have to be born again.” (John 3:3) That crazy Jesus. We were so close to really making our ministry be noticed and then this. See the context. It’s crazy, isn’t it? Unless it’s not. What if Jesus knew just what He was saying? And what if He knew just who He was saying it to? What if Jesus understood like nobody else, that the only thing that works is to let go of our works? That what we have done, what we have accomplished, what we know and who we know, not only doesn’t help us in this Kingdom stuff but actually gets in the way? What if Jesus was saying not only to Nick but to all of us 2000 years later that we have to lay everything, everything, everything aside and with the helplessness of a new born baby place ourselves in the hands of an incredibly loving Papa God and trust Him to show us how to live? Maybe that Crazy Jesus wasn’t saying something crazy at all. Maybe He was speaking to me. Today. And to you. And maybe I’m the crazy one for thinking I can figure this thing out or work my program into the Kingdom. Maybe I need to let go of a bunch of stuff, my old way of thinking, my religious rules and regulations and just, well, just be born again. Maybe everything I have been trying to earn from the Father really is a free gift and all I have to do is believe that. Maybe, just maybe the lights are starting to come on.
Hey Jesus, whazzzz up?