Holy Trinity Sunday – B LSB #849
Text – John 3:3
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
SEEING THE KINGDOM
Oak trees are one of the last types of tree, each spring, to sprout their leaves. We have one behind our home & the leaves are just beginning to push out & open. In the fall, when the frost kills the leaves, even though they fall off the other trees, the oak leaves cling stubbornly to their branches, even though they are as dead as any of the other leaves already on the ground.
Then come the sharp winds of winter, but they also are powerless to shake the hold of those stubborn oak leaves. Later comes the snow & the ice but their efforts are equally futile. Then comes spring. In the heart of those oak trees the sap begins to rise, new leaves push out & the old, dead ones finally drop away to make room for the new.
That picture is very similar to what happens in a human being as faith in Jesus comes to life. The old fruit, of the father of lies, is pushed aside & drops away to make room for the new fruit once you get connected to the Vine, which is Christ Jesus. Being grafted into the Vine causes the branch to bear good fruit from the Father of life.
After the long, cold winter plants begin to signal the renewed life & warmth of spring. When people begin to see the blossoming of flowers & the sprouting leaves they recognize that more vivid color will once again return to the landscape. Seeing that in the plant kingdom brings joy & peace & hope that new & refreshing times will arrive.
Since the heavenly Father created human beings to be in relationship with Him, C. S. Lewis likened The Fall into sin as a long, cold winter. In the Narnia Chronicles, he likened the coming of Christ to the warming of spring & the return, once for all, of summer. Because human beings were created to be in relationship with our Father, the saintly nature in us longs to see the kingdom of God. We want to see evidence of God at work in our lives, but sin has corrupted our ability to see. Satan takes advantage of that desire to see, & of our corrupted vision, in order to deceive us, & to manipulate us, into doing his will instead of the will of our Creator.
So a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus had come to Jesus & said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Like all human beings, Nicodemus wanted to see, but Jesus warns him that the gift of sight only comes from God. Seeing never comes by our own effort or doing.
The Gospel of Matthew states, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 3:1-2 ESV) He announces the arrival of Jesus by stating that the kingdom of heaven is near.
Kingdom of heaven & kingdom of God are basically interchangeable terms. So the words of the Baptist teach us that wherever Jesus goes, so goes the kingdom of God.
Next, we’re going to consider the words of Matthew in his 25th chapter. There, Jesus is telling us where we will see the kingdom of God:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry & you gave me food, I was thirsty & you gave me drink, I was a stranger & you welcomed me, I was naked & you clothed me, I was sick & you visited me, I was in prison & you came to me.’”
He is looking ahead to Judgment Day, & Jesus is connecting the dots for those who believed in Him. He tells them that when they fed the hungry they were feeding Jesus. When they gave something to drink to the thirsty they were doing it to Jesus. When they welcomed strangers or visited the sick they were doing it to Jesus. Now, if all those things were being done to Jesus that means the kingdom of God was there in those very moments. In other words, when we encounter people who need our help, we are encountering the kingdom of God.
The question is this: “Do you see, or do you recognize, God’s kingdom in people who need your help?” In the Gospel of John, Jesus teaches that you need faith in Him as your Savior in order to see the kingdom of God. Some people don’t see the kingdom at all because they do not believe in Jesus as Savior.
Yet there are many times that those of us who do believe also do not see. Being too selfish will blind us to God’s kingdom. Being too busy will blind us to God’s kingdom. Being too self-absorbed will blind us to God’s kingdom. Those sinful attitudes do not automatically make us unbelievers, but those attitudes do turn our hearts away from God.
Being turned away from Him makes it really difficult for us to ‘see’ God. Being turned in upon ourselves makes it really difficult for us to ‘see’ the kingdom of God. That doesn’t make us unbelievers, but it should make it clear to us that we’re heading in the wrong direction. Seeing God’s kingdom has as much to do with our heart as it does with our eyes.
St. Paul wrote: “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:6b-7 ESV) What Paul tells us is that as long as we live on this earth it is really difficult to live, as a child of God, by sight. We are too corrupt, too sinful, too self-centered, to clearly see the kingdom of God with our physical eyes.
Sinful human beings too easily get caught up in the glitz & glamor of Hollywood, or the power & wealth of Wall Street, or the success & the growth of Mega Churches. Nicodemus had sought out Jesus because of the miracles that he saw Jesus do. Because of those tendencies of our sinful nature our heavenly Father most commonly chooses to reveal His kingdom in the downtrodden, in those who are lost, in those who are poor or hungry, in those who are sick or in prison. One time God revealed His kingdom in a wealthy man named Zacchaeus, but he was a tax collector repenting of cheating people on their taxes.
Sickness can be a gift to us just like health. Poverty can be a gift just like wealth. The reason for this is our sinful tendency to worship the gift rather than God who is the Giver. We are less likely to worship sickness & poverty, than we are health & wealth. We are less likely to worship failure than success. We are less likely to worship repentance than righteousness.
After all, it was Jesus who said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The Holy Spirit has to change our heart from one of stone to one of flesh before we can see the kingdom, or the things, of God.
Nicodemus had seen the signs, other Gospel’s call them miracles, but apparently his heart had not yet been changed because, according to Jesus, he did not see. If Nicodemus desires a sign of God’s kingdom, he will need to be confronted with the cross. St. Paul says “We preach Christ crucified” because it is in weakness that God chooses to reveal His kingdom.
We look for kingdoms in power & in signs of strength, because they are easier for sinners to worship. Paul says, “We preach Christ crucified” because it is the consummation & the meaning of all the other signs performed by Jesus. Jesus crucified is the greatest sign of all; the greatest demonstration of God’s power & glory & kingdom.
Yes, it is a grisly sign, a scandal & offense to the eyes. But to them that believe, it is the greatest sign & miracle of all. “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV) If you can see The Kingdom of God in His Son’s crucifixion, then you can find rest & peace in Jesus. And that is God’s will for you, so the fruit, which was produced in you by the father of lies, would be pushed aside & drop away by the new fruit coming forth after your connection to Christ Jesus the Vine.
The goal of Christ in this text from the 3rd chapter of John is to move us, His “born from above” people to confident living in Christ, by His power, as we focus on Him as the One who was lifted up in our place. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” Amen.
Praise the One who breaks the darkness with a liberating light; praise the One who frees the prisoners, turning blindness into sight. Praise the One who preached the Gospel, healing every dread disease, calming storms & feeding thousands with the very Bread of peace. Let us praise the Word Incarnate, Christ, who suffered in our place. Jesus died & rose victorious that we may know God by grace. Let us sing for joy & gladness, seeing what our God has done; let us praise the true Redeemer, praise the One who makes us one. Amen. LSB 849:1, 3.
 Matthew 25:34-36 ESV
 John 3:17 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet