Join us over the next week as we look at encounters Jesus has with people living in their Hot Mess to help clear up yours...
A Hot Mess
Day 5: A Religious Mess
John 3:1-9 NLT
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 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.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
Religion is a hot mess. Nicodemus knew it and it’s the reason he found himself sneaking in the middle of the night to talk with Jesus. Have you ever gotten a call in the middle of the night? Your heart races. You wonder if something is wrong. No doubt Jesus maybe felt those thoughts when the knock on the door came. Here stood a man, a religious leader, a respected scholar, maybe a husband, possibly a father…he stands in the midst of the religious hot mess of the day. Laws. Power. Striving. Fighting. Anger. Hate. Guilt. Shame. Murder. This man stands before Jesus. He’s heard of the miracles. He has witnessed the peace. He has listened to the stories. There is no other road he can find that will lead his heart to clarity. Jesus listens intently. Jesus hears this man in confidence and in love. Jesus hears this man’s heart knowing he has the answer...
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16
Jesus gave Nicodemus exactly what he needed to step out of the religious mess he was experiencing. You can’t work hard enough to find salvation. You can’t strive high enough to find salvation. You can’t follow the law close enough. Salvation, freedom, grace, mercy…they come from the merciful hand of our God who gave his Son as sacrifice for our sin. There is no other way. So simple amidst the religious hot mess.
Maybe religion, church, spiritual leadership has hurt you. Maybe a judgement found against you. Maybe a glare or an angry stare was given toward you. Take heart, Nicodemus reminds us all that religion is never the answer ... it's a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. He is the answer to our lives and leads us into peace and hope over chaos and strife. Like Nicodemus, all Christ asks is that we believe. Believe that He is our eternal life and hope for today.
Nicodemus leaves and walks back into the religious hot mess surrounding him that he may not be able to change. But, the unclear questions and the foggy answers inside his heart are gone. He has clarity. He knows what to believe. He receives the truth. And, we know it lasts. We find him mentioned again at the end of Christ’s life in John 19:50. It tells us that when Jesus was buried, Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh about 100 pounds for embalming Jesus' body. Risking his own reputation, he comes to pay allegiance to the man who died to set him free.
Religion, its laws and its systems will never clear up the mess in our lives. Only the blood of Jesus.
Read the entire account of Nicodemus in John chapter 3.