"Imitating the Great Shepherd"
John 3 Nicodemus
Nicodemus came to Jesus acknowledging that he was from God by the same reasoning that Jesus implored the disciples (John 14) and the crowd the was speaking to (John 10) to believe he was who he said he was, that is by his works or the miracles he performed.
Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, either afraid or ashamed to be seen with Christ however Christ welcomed him anyway. This shows Christ was interested in teaching him even if he was weak or ashamed as we should be today, not demanding someone accept our beliefs up front but willing to teach to whosoever will listen.
Jesus also did not condemn Nicodemus for coming in regard to his own soul as opposed to all of Israel of which he was a leader.
Jesus teaches him of being born again of water and spirit, unless this happens no one will see the Kingdom of God so says Jesus (John 3:5). Jesus teaches that the first birth of man is of the flesh and leads to sin, the rebirth is of the spirit and leads to eternal life, and that this occurs thru the Holy Spirit
Nicodemus did not understand what Christ was teaching him and Christ says to him you are the teacher (leader) of Israel and yet you do not understand? Christ tells him that he teaches what he knows for a fact, yet Nicodemus does not accept his witness. He asks Nicodemus how he can tell him of more advanced teachings if he does not understand the simple ones.
Jesus compares himself to the snake that Moses lifted up in the desert that became the staff that God worked thru for Moses to lead God’s people to freedom to himself who must also be lifted up or believed upon for God to work thru Christ to give eternal life to those who believed. This was a comparison that Nicodemus understood. Jesus goes on to preach the gospel to Nicodemus.
John 4 The Samaritan Woman
The change in her comes about because Jesus reveals himself to her, not because she did something about her own sin. The change comes not from within her but from Jesus. She is saved not because he reveals her sin but because he reveals himself to her.
It is our mission to reveal Christ, not person’s sins.
This growth in understanding on the part of the woman moves through several stages: first, she calls him a Jew, then sir or lord, then prophet, and finally Messiah. And even beyond that, when the Samaritans come to hear Jesus, the affirmation of faith reaches its climax when they declare that Jesus is the Savior of the world. Step by step Jesus is leading her in her faith journey. It is not a natural growth, evolution, or maturation of faith undertaken by her alone. Jesus has an active role in leading her to true and liberating faith.
Just as with Nicodemus and others Christ used his work or miracles (knowing the past of the woman in this case) to produce acknowledgement that he was from God, and he continues to guide her (them) to God thru the use of the word of God, in this case his own words, which we still have today to use for the same purpose Christ uses them then. This shows the importance of knowing the word of God by studying that we might be able to produce the results Christ expects from us. We need to able to guide people to God, not cram God down their throat. Christ was a guide to God, not a condemner of those outside the faith; he produced faith in others by his knowledge of God’s will just as we have to do today.
Here Christ seems to be focusing on the way the Jews were worshiping in a ritual format that took away from the true nature of worship that he says should be a house of prayer. This should lead us to inspect our own concerns regarding how we are worshiping God. The Jews then were focused on the physical nature of worship and not the spiritual. They were trying to obey the letter of the law without considering the intent. The Jews were trying to make it very convenient to obey God by having all that was necessary to obey the letter of the law handy at the temple however that was taking the focus off what God intended which was true remorse for sin. We have to ask ourselves if Christ would find that same sort of attitude within our midst. Would Christ find us focusing on making worship convenient or would he find us seeking the spiritual growth God desires of us? Would he find us trying to make our physical house of God (building) beautiful or would he find our focus on the spiritual house? Jesus did not object to having a beautiful temple which by all accounts it was magnificent but he was concerned with those seeking God being focused on what was important. This was under the Mosaic Law however the principle that is conveyed is the same. God is the same today as then and Christ was doing the will of God.
The whole chapter of Matthew 23 is a condemnation of the practices of the leaders of Israel. In general they are focusing on the physical and ignoring the spiritual. They hold in high regard the gold of the temple but not the temple which make its sacred, the sacrifice on the alter but not the alter that makes it meaningful. Jesus tells those listening that they must obey those occupying the seat of Moses (leaders of Israel under the Mosaic Law) but do not do as they do. Jesus accuses those leaders of preventing those seeking God from reaching him because of their actions. The teachers are seeking to raise themselves up as important and outwardly doing the right thing while inwardly being defiled. Jesus tells them to seek spirituality first (clean the inside of the cup) and then the outside or actions will also be clean or approved. They were attempting to physically do the right actions without concern for the spiritual reason for those actions. Jesus states he longs to lead them ( Israel) to God but they refuse to follow because they love the praise of men more than pleasing God. Jesus tells them that all that they cherish (temple and practices of observing the law) is meaningless (your house is left to you desolate).
Again this is a warning to us today to examine our motives for serving the Lord, as well as not fall in love with the respect we receive from the congregation or community because we outwardly serve God. We must keep our focus on being a servant and seeking our own spiritual growth that we might better serve those who are seeking God. Jesus is warning us that without doing that we can and will lead others farther from him and condemn them because of our actions. We as leaders are in a position to lead people away from Christ just as easily as to him if we do not seek God first in our own lives and follow the pattern Christ has given us to be leaders. Every decision we make as leaders whether it is as a deacon or a father to our children goes to guiding those who follow us to Christ or away from Christ. It can be a simple as deciding to not go to church for a certain reason, you are in essence telling those following you whether it is the congregation or your kids that on this day that reason is more important than God. Jesus is letting the leadership of Israel (which is us today) know the immense responsibility they (we) have to the people of God.
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