“How Can These Things Be?”

“How Can These Things Be?” John 3:1-17

The Holy Trinity (B)  5/27/18

Pastor Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

A rather unusual but true fact regarding Christians, regardless of what age and era we live here on earth, is that we “marvel” a lot.

And this, in addition to marveling about so many aspects of God’s creation… so many earthly and worldly things that are truly amazing… truly a sight to behold.

No. What the Christian man and woman marvels most is about the divine… things not of this world… things far above and beyond both the world and the worldly mind… our minds.

Here in God’s house… in divine worship… we certainly have the opportunity to marvel again and again over events that have taken place, including the past six months in what is known as the festival half of the Church Year. This includes:

  • The Incarnation of our Lord and His holy Nativity – God becoming man. God coming to earth to save us from our sins and certain death, eternal death. At this we marvel.
  • The Passion of our Lord and His glorious Resurrection – All that took place on the cross on Good Friday and at the empty tomb on that first Easter Sunday. That Jesus who died is alive again. At this we marvel.
  • The Ascension of our Lord into heaven and the wonderful fact that having done so, He… Jesus… is closer to us than ever. That in heaven, He prepares a place from us and that from heaven, He rules over all things for our good. At this we marvel.
  • And then there’s the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we celebrated last Sunday… on the Day of Pentecost. And how powerful and mightily the Spirit works bringing us to faith through Holy Baptism and keeping us firm in the faith by Word and Sacrament. At this we marvel.
  • And today, Holy Trinity Sunday, as we celebrate and worship… as we give all glory, honor and praise to the one true God… our Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That there is One God and He, in three Persons. The Father eternal and begotten of no one. The Son eternal and begotten of the Father. The Holy Spirit eternal, not begotten, but proceeding from the Father and the Son. At this we marvel.

As did Nicodemus who hears the amazing news that he… that we and all others… all the world… must be “born again.” Nicodemus said to his Lord, our Lord, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9)

Actually, unbeknownst to him, Nicodemus answered his own question in an earlier statement where he acknowledged,

“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.” (John 3:2)

It is interesting that Nicodemus uses the collective “we” hear indicating that others among the Pharisees believed as well that God was with this Jesus… at work in this Jesus.

There you have it Nicodemus!  The God factor! With God involved, with God in the mix, with God at work, one need never ask, “How can this be.” There is your answer for as our Lord said to the Twelve and as He says again and again to all of us, “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Again… the “God factor”… which will mean nothing until you and I, by the work of the Holy Spirit, put aside the “self factor” and our pathetic attempts to know it all, understand it all… rejecting or, at best, remaining doubtful and skeptical about things we cannot fully fathom.

And when we do that… humbly accepting, embracing, trusting and believing the words of Christ here in this particular text and all His Word… which is all of Scripture… new insight, enlightenment and wisdom come our way so that we truly understand more, believe more and more, rejoice more and more.

Do you want to know why some people seem to be more knowledgeable of the divine, it is because of their time in the Word of God… their time listening to Jesus.

Indeed, it is all by… all about… listening to Jesus and the Holy Spirit working through the same just as we see happen here with Nicodemus to whom it is further revealed that being “born again” has nothing to do with physical birth, but everything to do with spiritual birth… by… as it says, “water and the Spirit” and this referring to none other than Holy Baptism.

We hear our Lord say to Nicodemus and to us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7)

God ahead Nicodemus, you can marvel as to HOW all of this takes place… the sole work, gracious work, merciful work of Almighty God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit… but do not marvel that it DOES take place… because… again… with God all things are possible.

And especially my friends, with a God who loves us so. With the Holy Trinity who would not leave us and all mankind with just one birth… our being born in sin… and the consequences of the same… namely eternal death in hell.

The Holy Trinity who was a work in creation and by whom all things came into being… including you and me… is the Holy Trinity at work in our salvation. For indeed God the Father so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him… and this solely by the work of the Holy Spirit… will not perish, but have eternal life.

If there are those who are so inclined to focus on how these things can be, so be it.  I, for one… and for countless others, including I pray, all of you dear brothers and sisters… would rather simply focus on, dwell on… that it simply all is. It is reality. It is fact. It is certain… the forgiveness of all our sins, our full adoption as sons and daughters of the King and heirs of His eternal Kingdom… yes, life eternal… now… peace… now… strength now, blessing upon blessing now and so much more in eternity.  At this… all this… we marvel and we give ceaseless thanks and adoration.

But wait, there is more. As a quick epilogue to Nicodemus, it is the very same who lovingly attends to our Lord’s body following His crucifixion, bringing a large mixture of myrrh and aloes. (John 19:39)  What Nicodemus once would only do in the dark, now he boldly does in the light. How marvelous! Amen.