So we know how Jesus saw and challenged the good, the nasty, the entrapped, the infirmed, those of different races and cultures and each of those areas may be challenges for us because they may be different from us.
As human beings we love being comfortable, sometimes people strive their entire lives just to be comfortable and never achieve it because once they reach comfort, they decide they want to strive for something else. I’m not sure if I have ever been comfortable but I know most days I am at peace, most days I have joy, most days I am filled with love, but I am always striving to become the man God wants me to be, to be that example to my family, my church family, the community and anyone that is around me….I have learned that God always works things for my good because he loves me and I am called according to his purpose and do his purpose (Romans 8:28)
So on one hand I want us to be comfortable in God’s presence knowing he is faithful and will never fail us and always loves us and will fill us with the fruit and power of the Spirit but on the other hand I want us to be willing to be uncomfortable so we can advance the Kingdom of God by being open to listen to people from all aspects of life and trust the Holy Spirit to fill us with what we need to speak their language and directly to their hearts.
I love speaking to people who are more learned than I am in all walks of life from theologians to contractors, mechanics, professors, business people, politicians and such there is so much we can learn if you think you understand it all than you have become a fool. I love learning but I have also found that some of the brightest people in their field are also the most lost when it comes to the things of God, how to live a healthy, successful life with using their skills, talents and abilities to bless their families, the people around them and most importantly the Lord. Many have no understanding of their eternity.
They easily can intimidate because of their knowledge. But they too are people who the Lord loves and wants them to understand that love. We have a wholesome grasp because we are the ones, he loves the most.
Nicodemus was a member of the ruling council in Israel, it would be like our Senate. He was a pharisee (like Paul, he and Paul probably served at the same time), he was influential in the community in fact it is his family that will negotiate the peace with the Romans after the temple is destroyed in 70 AD. He comes to meet Jesus secretly at night so as not to create a stir.
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
We are going to stop there because there are a couple of very important things about talking to the well-educated that we need to understand. It is easy to think that the mundane, the things you do everyday don’t matter but they do! Your everyday life of becoming more like Jesus, acting more like Jesus, treating people the way Jesus would….because you are daily in the word, daily in prayer, attending church regularly…you are moment by moment reflecting Jesus.
The well-educated are generally looking for what is real, what has meaning, what shows purpose, and what is going to help them get to where they want to be. Nicodemus was not only well-educated but according to the Talmud he was 4th wealthiest man in all of Palestine (Israel) at that time.
So what does this have to do with Jesus reaching him. What did Nicodemus say about wanting to meet Jesus?
“Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
In order to reach most people but the well educated in particular, you need to be the real deal…
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
This is one of those reasons why I emphasize this so much. The challenge is what do people see when they see you? Not just when you are in a good mood, not just when things are all going well for you but how do they see your attitude when you are in a bad place, a bad mood?
Be Jesus always because people are always looking…I know we are all growing and no one is looking for perfection (some people are and they are never going to find it) But in our world there are false narratives everywhere. There are issues of gender, race, equality, equity….that are hot buttons and then lesser things like the economy, immigration and such that if you do not do your own research and simply listen to the pundits you will never know the truth. We need to remember as passionate as you feel about those things you have to gain the right in people’s eyes to be able to speak those things…..being Jesus to a broken world allows that to happen….often we get it backward then only those who agree with you will listen but if we want to change hearts and minds and you want to become dangerous to the enemy you have to allow the world to see your light and your love first.
Jesus listened….Nicodemus was asking Jesus about the Kingdom of God.
Every good Jew was looking for the freedom from Roman control as he was outlining Jesus works he was asking him about the Kingdom. As a good listener we not only listen to people’s words but also try to hear from their heart, James challenges us to do simply that
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
Often, we jump on each other’s words because we want to be quick to speak but those who have spent a significant portion of their lives learning will tend to speak with precision, saying what they mean. Jesus knew this about Nicodemus and he loved him enough to move in grace, listening to his heart and answering from Jesus understanding and insight of God’s word.
I can not stress the importance of knowing what you believe and why you believe it. Often people will quote 1 Peter 3:15 about being ready to give a defense of the Gospel and I believe that to be true in many cases but as Jesus shows us in John 3, I believe it is more like 2 Timothy 2:15- 17a
Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior. 17 This kind of talk spreads like cancer……
If you take the time to read John 3:1-21 you will see Jesus explains the Father’s heart based on His word, even explaining some mysteries in a way of helping Nicodemus understand.
It is hard to radically love if we don’t have a grasp of God’s radical love letter. To know God’s word, to believe God’s word, is to live God’s word radically so that all might understand.
Reaching the well educated
- Living a life that they can see your radical love on display daily, moment by moment
- Listening to the words and the heart
- Sharing God’s word, His truth in a way that meets them where they are
How did Jesus see the powerful?
Are you intimidated by the powerful? We are to give honor to who honor is due.
Romans 13:7 (NIV)
Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Honor, respect, kindness, decorum are things are culture has forgotten being led by both leading candidates for president.
But Jesus even in his suffering, rejection and mistreatment did not forget.
The Gospel of John gives us the best dialogue between Jesus and the most powerful man in Palestine at the time, Pilate.
The Jews did not want to defile themselves so they would not enter Pilates house (they were hypocritical at this point in that they had broken multiple laws trying Jesus at night without an accuser, without proper procedures all of these things defiled them)
Then Pilate went back into his headquarters and called for Jesus to be brought to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
34 Jesus replied, “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”
36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.
Jesus with respect for Pilate in answering his question, asked a question. He wants to get to the truth of the matter. Jesus knows Pilate is not going to let him go, but instead is speaking words to reach him in a way he will understand. Pilate understands two things; Kingdoms and a search for truth.
Jesus is not shaken, he is not on edge, he is not angry He is concerned about the man.
Think with me what would happen if every person who stands against the truth came to the Gospel. Jesus got on common ground with Pilate. Pilate saw before him not some rough Galilean but a King. He saw through the charade of the Jews
Luke 23:15 Pilate states that both he and Herod found him innocent
“Would you like me to release to you this ‘King of the Jews’?” Pilate asked. 10 (For he realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 11 But at this point the leading priests stirred up the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus. 12 Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?”
13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!”
Pilate saw the truth, because he saw Jesus, he saw the real Jesus not the plastic caricature the Jews presented….
Let me take a moment to remind you that the crowd is rarely right, the loud voices are not real voices just the blind following the blind caught up in the heat of the moment. In the midst of the chaos there must be a voice of peace…we are that voice
How do we reach the powerful?
Keep your cool if you disagree, disagree with respect perhaps asking questions to get them to think
Be concerned about the person as well as your position. The way you act is as powerful or perhaps more so than your words
Remember it is only truth that can set people free…know the truth
Ladies and gentleman truth is not elusive, it is right there if people want to see it. But how can they see it if they are closed to you because of your approach.
In the last few weeks, I have presented to you so thoughts on radical love and the last few weeks about looking at people the way Jesus sees them. The challenge is often not so much about the way we see them as to the way we present ourselves and are seen by others….There are so many other ways to reach all of these types of people I have mentioned but first remember to be Jesus, always so people might see you
Remember who you are and what has been done for you…lead into communion