Wednesday, April 6, 2011

John 3: Tradition Meets the Spirit

I feel a little sorry for Nicodemus and the other ruling Pharisees. Here is their world: centuries earlier their forefathers had sinned terribly and God had given them and their descendants over to economic and cultural domination by the Gentiles. And so it was decided: no more compromise! No more mixing with the outside world! High walls of tradition were built to keep the Jews away from the corrupting pagans. Surely God would be pleased and these hundreds of these new rules and regulations, strenuously enforced, would redeem Israel from her national humiliation.

But of course it didn’t work out well. It never does when Father-Child love degenerates into dos and don’ts. The sons of the reformers become tyrants. National repentance becomes national hypocrisy. Everything done in the flesh eventually dies.

Nicodemus visits Jesus at night. (I think Jesus uses his fear to illustrate those who “will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”) Jesus cuts right to the chase with two bedrock teachings:
1)    Israel must turn from man-made law and listen to the Spirit.
2)    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

And of course Jesus himself never forces or manipulates anyone to do anything. He is the un-Pharisee. Instead of rules and force, he is the servant leader. Never authoritarian, He is true Authority. And as for those oppressing Gentiles - in a few centuries they would be naming their children Peter and John and their dogs Ceasar and Nero. The Spirit of Jesus would "overthrow" Rome by making her people his friends.

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