John 3: 1-17
I want us to think for a little while about the story of Nicodemus today.
We have heard the most famous part of Nicodemus’s story: his conversation with Jesus when he comes to talk to Jesus “by night”.
Nicodemus is a member of the Jewish council or Sanhedrin. You might say that he is an ‘elder’, a leader, one who is meant to understand the faith. But he is in the dark. He is trying to work out who Jesus is, and whether he is sent from God, or not.
If he is from God, the council should listen to him. If he isn’t, they should probably punish him for heresy.
Jesus talks to him about the importance of the Spirit – of being born by the Spirit, guided by God’s Holy Spirit in all you do. Then in the verse we probably know best, Jesus states “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that everyone who has faith in him should not perish but have eternal life”.
John’s gospel does not tell us what Nicodemus says in response – perhaps he just goes away to have a long think.
Nicodemus comes into John’s gospel again in chapter 7 v 50 – when the Jewish council are considering having Jesus arrested. They have finally decided that what Jesus is saying and doing is contrary to the law of God, and they are wanting the temple police to arrest Jesus.
But Nicodemus speaks up “Does our low permit us to pass judgement without first learning the facts?”.
It seems that this buys Jesus s little more time before the authorities finally move against him. Meanwhile, perhaps Nicodemus is still considering the facts about Jesus.
Finally, in ch 19 v 39 Nicodemus once again enters the story of Jesus. Jesus has just been crucified and has dies on the cross, and Joseph of Arimathea has asked Pilate for permission to remove the body of Jesus. Nicodemus joins Joseph to carry the body to the borrowed tomb.
It seems that Nicodemus has finally decided what he thinks of Jesus – he risks a lot to carry the body of a condemned criminal, and he brings with him a huge quantity of spices for the burial.
Nicodemus finally comes out from the darkness into the light – the truth of Jesus’ identity has dawned on him.
Did he later hear the good news of the resurrection? It’s not silly to think he would have done – presumably somebody reported to Joseph of Arimathea and to Nicodemus that the body they had carefully laid in the tomb was risen and Jesus was alive.
Finally he would learn that Jesus is the Son sent from God the Father and raised by him from death to live forever and to send the promised Holy Spirit.
It seems from John’s gospel that Nicodemus needs quite some time to think and ponder and realise that Jesus is who he says he is.
In that story we find reason to remember that today is Trinity Sunday, to spend some time thinking for ourselves who Jesus is and how he relates to God the Father & to the Spirit.
You could argue that since Jesus never uses the word Trinity it can’t be that important: actually ‘Trinity’ isn’t a Biblical word at all – it was probably first used by Tertullian about 150 years after Christ.
But just because the word Trinity isn’t used that doesn’t mean that the idea of God as Three - Father Son & Holy Spirit – isn’t there in the Bible. In the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, Jesus talks freely of the Spirit of God – and in plenty of other parts of the gospels he promises that he will send the Spirit to his followers.
Jesus is also clear that he is sent from God – but not just as a holy man – but as the Son, sent from God the Father out of love for the world, to save all who believe.
Jesus shows us that this relationship between the three person of the Godhead helps us to understand more about the God of love who comes to us. God the Father is one with God the Son and one with God the Spirit, and this closeness, this being with, is also offered to us.
When Jesus prays ‘Our Father..’ there is no distance between God the Father, who hears the prayer, Jesus the Son who prays it, and the Holy Spirit who helps prayers to be articulated.
There is no distance between the Spirit who is sent into the hearts and minds of Jesus’ disciples at Pentecost, Jesus who promised that Spirit, and God the Father who sends the Spirit.
There is no distance between Jesus who cries out on the cross, God the Father to whom he cries, and the Spirit who carries the cries of all into the heart of the Godhead.
There is, at the heart of God, perfect relationship, perfect communion, perfect love – and that love reaches out to relate, in three persons, with the world God has made.
Why does the Trinity matter?
Because it shows us how God relates to Godself in love and then shows us how God relates to each one of us in love. God is not alone, God is with…
When our hearts ache, when our sleep is troubled, when we live in a state of fear and uncertainty, God is with us, very near, just as Jesus was there in the night with Nicodemus.
God is not distant, or uncaring, or unknowing – God is with us, in us, along side us – always wanting to relate to us, to hear our prayer, to offer us comfort.
The Trinity shows us the God who reaches out to us in love and care – and will never abandon us.
We also see that the Trinity is dynamic and loving and relating – and restless. God – the Holy Three in One - wants to recruit new lives and new lives into this relationship. God in Trinity wants to reach out in love to us.
Like Nicodemus, what we learn about God’s love as Father, in Jesus, and in the life of the Spirit– about God’s love in Trinity – changes our lives. We become part of God’s love reaching out into the world, we are part of God’s love with people – meeting their needs, holding them in prayer, telling them about God’s love for them.
So may we know God with us in Trinity, and be used by God to build the kingdom of love joy & peace
In the name of God, Father Son & Holy Spirit. Amen.