C asked a great question in the last post: ‘what does it mean to meet Jesus?’ (Your comments have been stonking: thank-you).
Here’s my tuppence;
No-one goes away from meeting Jesus, unchanged. Sometimes (and these are normally the testimonies we showcase at special events), there’s a kind of deliverance: a moment, when lives change, very obviously, for the better.
Sometimes it’s gradual. And outwardly at least, life appears much the same.
But quite often, meeting Jesus messes everything up. It does not improve your bank balance, your love life or your sense of humour. Instead of making you happier about yourself; it makes you feel worse. You sometimes think Jesus is the icing on a pretty decent homemade cake…but He goes and upends the whole tin.
Nicodemus for example, (John 3). He’s a Pharisee, on the Jewish ruling council. Powerful, rich, well-respected. The sort of man who can carry off red chinos, (which takes some doing, at least in Eastbourne). Nicodemus has got the cake and the icing. Secure in his identity; strong and full. So he rocks up to Jesus, for a bit of a chat.
‘Teacher’, he says, ‘me and the guys have been talking. You are obviously a teacher who has come from God. All these miraculous signs are proof that God is with You -‘
Nicodemus wants dialogue, not rescue. But Jesus is having none of it. Jesus says:
‘Here’s the truth – only someone who is born again can see the kingdom of God’.
This is not what Nicodemus asked. After all, he gives talks on the kingdom of God! No-one needs to tell him about being born ag – Wait. Born again? What?
‘I’m a grown man. How can someone be born again when he is old like me? Am I to crawl back into my mother’s womb for a second birth? That’s impossible!’
And Jesus hits him. With an assertion that calls his whole life into question.
(Scrivener translation – sorry). Mate, he says. Everyone who wants to enter the kingdom of heaven, must be born again. Including you. It’s not about tweaking a few rules or doing slightly better. Everything about you is wrong. Everything has to change.
That’s the first punch. The second is when he likens Nicodemus, the respected leader, to the grumbling Israelites.
Don’t think of yourself as a righteous leader of God’s people, think of yourself as a grumbling, perishing sinner. Like in Numbers 21. In that story the murmuring Israelites are suffering the judgement of God, snake-bitten and without a hope in the world. But the LORD provides a bronze serpent for them to look at and be rescued.
You’re not a somebody going somewhere. You’re a nobody lost in the dark. You are not part of the solution. You’re part of the problem. And there’s nothing you can do to rescue yourself. The only way to be rescued – is to look to me.
Nicodemus came as a champion, strong and full. After a few words from Jesus, he leaves, weak and empty. But when we recognise our need – that’s where the grace of Jesus meets us. We see this in John chapter 4, where Jesus meets someone very different. A woman who’s outside society. Wrong gender, wrong race, wrong nation, wrong lifestyle. This woman is already weak and empty. And the first thing He does is to offer her life: the living water of his Spirit.
If we meet Jesus full, He’ll empty us. If we meet Him empty, He’ll fill us. But no-one leaves Jesus unchanged.