In this day and age expertise is expected. We look to those who have been trained in certain areas and expect them to step up to their specialty. If they don’t do it well, then we are quick to criticize and challenge if they were really experts in the first place.
Don’t believe me? Ask yourself these questions right now. Do you think Jamie Garcia can be the pitcher we expect? Will Rosenthal live up to his potential as closer? Who will be the next president and how will he or she change the flaws of the past? Is my tip at a restaurant based upon expertise? We all have these expectations whether we know it or not. We live with them everyday.
I love the Bible passage John 3:16. It is held up on signs at sports events all across this nation, but so often its context is missed. Jesus was talking to a supposed “expert” in the subject of religious law – a Pharisee. Nicodemus was a guy who knew all about the church, yet he had a hard time understanding the true concept of faith. Granted, faith is based on some unexplainable truths, but don’t we expect the “expert” to get it? Yet Nicodemus is puzzled by Jesus’ words. What does it mean to be born again with water and the spirit, and how is someone transformed through this?
Two weeks in a row we celebrate baptism at Mt. Calvary. Baby Cora will be up there with me this week. We, as a body of Christ, will get to marvel again at the mystery of baptism. Just like last week, we realize the world can see this as folly. Is it different when it’s the “expert” who sees it as folly?
Confession time. Guess who are the people I am most critical of? I am critical of pastors. Honestly, I try to stay open-minded with pastors who have different views, but the truth is, if I hear horrible theology I am overly critical. I feel justified in being that way since Luther warned pastors that getting up and preaching is a huge responsibility. It is not something to be taken lightly.
Keep that in mind as we go back to Nicodemus. He was a guy who wrestled with his mentors around him. His colleagues (the other Pharisees) taught one thing and Jesus was teaching something totally different. What a tough spot to be in. If the “experts” in your life are misguiding you, then how are you able to grasp the deeper understanding of what you need to know? Unfortunately, sometimes “experts” just expect us to understand rather than help us reach understanding. Growth is found in our questions, and Jesus wants us to reach and understand the deeper pieces of His life.
My son, Jacob, is full of questions. Just the other day he said, “You expect me to learn a lot.” Well the truth is, “Yes I do!” And just as much as he is learning, I am asking myself how I can be a better teacher. The famous passage of John 3:16 was Jesus trying to help Nicodemus grasp the deepest teaching of what He was about to do. It wasn’t some cliché. Nicodemus, the “expert,” didn’t understand and Jesus was trying to help, wanting him to understand. Just think, if he “got it,” how many others could be impacted? One reason I love this passage is that it brings us back to Lent again, back to baptism, back to the very truth we need to hear! This week we take time to look at an expert who is being challenged and how Jesus was helping him grasp the truth of what He came to do!