Born Again (Post 1)
Sermon reflection by Lee Jen Wei
The first thing that strikes me with regard to the incident depicted in this passage (John 2.23-3.13) is the disparity between head and heart knowledge. By all accounts, Nicodemus was in possession of all the knowledge it was humanly possible to have had, as a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin. To say he was an expert regarding the Scriptures would be an understatement. Yet it was clear from the off that he did not understand in the least what Jesus was talking about when Jesus began to speak to him.
This reiterates a point only made to me over the course of the past few weeks: one can study the Scriptures all one wants, but without knowing Jesus, one will inevitably be wrong. Nowhere is this made clearer than through the example of Nicodemus. The argument between science and faith has been one of particular interest to me over the past couple of years, and it’s likely to be one of increasing interest to me as I venture further into the scientific field over the next few years. Hence I consider this to be a particularly pertinent and timely reminder to myself: to not underestimate the importance of knowing Jesus before delving into any attempts to rationalise my faith.
Another thing that struck me was that the outpouring of a legalistic and fearful view of God is the puffing up of oneself and the belittling of others, and that in comparison the fruit of being born again is being self-sacrificial so that others may know God. I particularly enjoyed the analogy of the teacher who ruled with an iron fist compared to the pretty teacher, because it really hammered home the difference in perspectives between perceived salvation through works and faith. In one circumstance, the right things are done because one has to; in the other they are done because one wants to. And without having to be particularly introspective one is able to tell which category one falls under by examining one’s fruit. While I’d never considered myself to have been a legalist per se, I do have to confess that there exists a more sinister side to myself that enjoys puffing myself up at others’ expense, and hence I may have to re-evaluate that self-assessment!
It has been an interesting experience revisiting Bible stories that I have known from a long time ago as an older Christian now, and one thing is continually made clear to me: as I’ve mentioned in my previous reflections, I have more in common with the Pharisees than I like to think. It is my fervent prayer that I will be able to understand God such that my religious actions are born of love for God rather than fear of Him, and that I will demonstrate this through self-sacrificial actions towards others that they may know Him better.