Audio version below:
Today there’s a great deal of unbelief and skepticism about God and Jesus Christ in our society. I’m watching the CNN series on Jesus on Sunday nights during Lent called “Finding Jesus.” If the remaining segments are like the two I’ve seen so far, I think you will have to find Jesus elsewhere than on CNN. You may end up wondering whether you can find him at all or– just as unfortunate– wondering whether finding him is worthwhile.
Last Sunday’s segment was about John the Baptist. To tell you the truth, as they dramatized John’s life, I found him peculiar and unstable. I don’t think I would follow him and I certainly wouldn’t want him to dunk me into a river of water. The segment suggested that John was the teacher of Jesus, his mentor. I’m wondering what the next episodes are going to be like. Is Jesus going to be portrayed like John? If he is, I wouldn’t want to follow him either.
The mainstream media by nature is skeptical, so it keeps asking questions like: Did Jesus really exist? What did he look like? What are the facts about his birth, his life and his death? Are other gospels out there that contradict the four we know? Have the archeologists found out anything more about him? Was he married? Is there anything new about him?
Nothing wrong with most of those questions except that questions alone wont get you the truth. You can get buried under facts. You can try to know too many facts. Knowing the facts isn’t necessary to start a friendship, get married, to begin a business, to make a medical decision, or to believe.
But we shouldn’t be surprised– there’s always been unbelief and skepticism. Our first reading this Sunday from the Old Testament tells us that:. “In those days, all the princes of Judah, the priests, and the people added infidelity to infidelity…Early and often did the LORD, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them”… “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets.” Their unbelief led to destruction and exile. (2 Chronicles, 36,14-16) Skepticism and unbelief are nothing new.
In the New Testament passage from John, Nicodemus meets Jesus, but he only comes at night. He’s someone who’s reluctant to believe. He is a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Jews at the time of Jesus. He’s interested in what Jesus has to say but he’s hesitant, perhaps because he’s in the minority, so it’s not the popular thing to do. Or perhaps he can’t understand the dimensions of what Jesus reveals. Jesus speaks of a greater life, a new birth, and Nicodemus can only grasp life as he sees it and lives it.
Some today are reluctant to believe for the same reasons, so they keep asking questions, or give up seeking altogether. You might be in the minority if you believe, for example. You wont be popular with everybody if you believe. You may be confused or uncertain or wondering about the faith you are asked to hold onto.
The interesting thing is the God doesn’t give up on the unbeliever or those like Nicodemus who are uncertain or confused or questioning. God meets you in the night. So come to God with the faith you have. Why doesn’t God give up on us? Listen again to our reading from John’s gospel.
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
God so loved the world. And the great sign of God’s love is the death of Jesus on the Cross. What greater sign of love could God give?