Saturday, March 22, 2008

Eternal Life Now

John’s Gospel begins with the most famous conversation in history – and our key verse John 3:16. And it practically ends with Nicodemus again, this time witness to all that Jesus promised years earlier that fateful night.

Nicodemus doesn’t indicate why he visited Jesus that fateful night. But Jesus certainly would have known (as the Son of God he’s omniscient). And I think we can take Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus as the answer to the question or questions that Nicodemus had for Jesus.

What Nicodemus wants from Jesus is the same thing that many of us want. This morning, let’s take a look at some of these questions and the answers that Jesus and His resurrection give us.

1. See the Kingdom of God.

Nicodemus – as a Pharisee – was passionate about the Kingdom of God. He had dedicated his whole life to finding out more about the Kingdom of God and how he could be a part of it in a more intimate way than just being a religious person. Who better to learn more about the Kingdom of God than from “a teacher come from God” (John 3:2 ESV)?

So we too can find the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. We are searching for purpose in this life. We are looking for something we can give our heart to. What’s been the missing element of your marriage? What’s missing that makes school worthwhile? What can fill the void in your heart? It’s the Kingdom of God that Jesus brings!

2. Eternal life begins right now, in this world.

Jesus tells Nicodemus, “whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (v. 21). The Light gives us eternal life. The Light is Jesus Himself. This is a little play on words on Jesus’ part. Nicodemus comes at night – literally in the dark – to hear that Jesus has brought light into the world.

The light shines out of the empty tomb. And the empty tomb shows us that the grave is now the gateway to paradise – eternal life in heaven. But note this well – Jesus didn’t go directly to heaven after he rose from the dead. He visited his friends – walking and speaking with them on the road to Emmaus, bringing peace to them in the upper room, offering his scars to Thomas, encouraging and calling Peter to “feed my sheep.”

Eternal life in paradise has been opened and offered to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But paradise is the “not yet” of the light that shines from Jesus’ empty tombs. The “now” part of it is that we are still here in this world. Walking, talking, offering Jesus’ scars to others, carrying on Peter’s calling to feed Jesus’ sheep.

In other words, eternal life begins right now. It isn’t something for later. We cannot do whatever we want to do and “get to that Jesus stuff later.” Many people certainly do. They are lied to by Satan and their own “Old Adam” that there will be plenty of time for all that later. “Now is the time to live for yourself,” Satan whispers to us.

But if you listen to this lie, you will miss out on so much. Yes, it is true that death bed converts and life-long saints enter heaven through the same door – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But Christ died and rose again not just for your eternal life in heaven, but for you abundant life now!

As you contemplate the empty tomb, hear these words of Jesus again, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 ESV).

You can have life now. A life of purpose and meaning. And here’s how. Join a small group study here at Redeemer. Or start one of your own. For the past six weeks, we’ve had eight small groups meet just about every week. Many of them are going to continue to meet. Join one of these small groups as they continue to use the Bible to open up their lives to what Jesus has brought- “Life to the full.” Starting next week, we’ll have the small groups posted on the bulletin board and on the website. Several of the small groups are going to be starting “Sensory Bible Studies” that will involve all five senses in a study of a book of the Bible. Join one of these small groups or start one of your own.

I’ll close with this thought from Max Lucado.

We who follow Christ do so [because he’s been where we are going]:

He’s been to Bethlehem, wearing barn rages and hearing sheep crunch. Suckling milk and shivering against the cold. All of divinity content to cocoon itself in an eight-pound body and to sleep on a cow’s supper. Millions who face the chill of empty pockets or the fears of sudeen change turn to Christ. Why?

Because he’s been there.

He’s been to Nazareth, where he made deadlines and paid bills; to Galilee, where he recruited [dock workers] and separated fighters; to Jerusalem, where he stared down critics and stood up against cynics.

We have our Nazareths as well—demands and due dates. Jesus wasn’t the last to build a team; accusers didn’t disappear with Jerusalem’s temple. Why seek Jesus’ help with you challenges? Because he’s been there. To Nazareth, to Galilee, to Jerusalem.

But most of all, he’s been to the grave. Not as a visitor, but as a corpse. Buried amidst the cadavers. Numbered among the dead. Heart silent and lungs vacant. Body wrapped and grave sealed. The cemetery. He’s been buried there.

You haven’t yet. But you will be. And since you will, don’t you need someone who knows the way out?

God … has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…. He destroyed death, and through the Good News he showed us the way to have life that cannot be destroyed. (1 Peter 1:3 NIV; 2 Tim. 1:10 NCV).

[Max Lucado, 3:16 The Numbers of Hope, (Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2007), 122]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

God loves. God gave. We believe. We live.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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