Do You Know What You're Talking About?
John 3:11 ¶ “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.
John 3:12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
Nicodemus came to visit Jesus under the cover of darkness because there were so many things about this man that he did not understand. The problem was that Nicodemus was a very well educated man who was teaching others within his faith community about God. Jesus and his followers were able to talk easily about what they knew and could testify to the miracles that they had seen. Why? Because these were their own personal experiences and they were very real and genuine for them. They didn't just teach about God, they knew God. Nicodemus wanted to know about the things of God, the things that happen in heaven. There would be no way for Nicodemus to understand the things of heaven if he didn't comprehend the heavenly things that were happening here on the earth. It is in this light that Jesus explains to him the need to be born again -- something that can happen now, in the present. Only in this way could this religious leader truly know God, and thereby have a personal testimony, not just an intellectual knowledge.
Lightfoot shares this story:
[Art thou a master of Israel?] Art thou a Wise man in Israel? It was the answer of a boy to R. Joshua, when he asked him, “Which is the shortest way to the city? The boy answered, ‘This is the shortest way though it is the longest: and that is the longest way though it is the shortest.’ R. Joshua took that way which was the shortest, though the longest. When he came very near the city, he found gardens and places of pleasure hedged in [so that he could go no further]. He returned therefore to the boy, and said to him, ‘My son, is this the shortest way to the city?’ The boy answered, ‘Art thou a wise man in Israel? did I not thus say to thee, That is the shortest way though the longest?’“
Recently I was programming my GPS to take me home and, as usual, it gave me three options for the journey. It gives me the option of the trip according to mileage, or according to time. Just as the story above, I have a choice to make, and most of the time I choose the shortest time, while it is not always the shortest distance. Thinking the GPS must have been wrong (because it seems to often expect secondary roads to be quite slow) I decided to try the journey of the shortest distance and Chuck and I found ourselves winding around for hours on the back roads of West Virginia. When we finally reached a straight stretch of highway we breathed a sign of relief. We had not been very wise in our decision for we did not know what we were talking about!
Nicodemus was supposed to have been a wise man. How could he know so much about God and yet, not know God? Yesterday we looked at an Old Testament text in which we were challenged to be able to tell our story. We can't tell our story if we have no personal experience with God. The young boy had a personal experience of the journey into the city and he knew how to direct the man. I now know that I will take the longer road through West Virginia, for it will be the shortest! This is my personal testimony and it is with this experience that I can make more informed choices about life.
Regarding spiritual things -- do we know what we're talking about? Have we had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ that we can share with the world? Do we know him on a deeply personal and intimate level? This is possible for us to experience here on this earth and it becomes a foretaste of things heavenly. We may have all the academic and intellectual knowledge in the world, but without a personal encounter with Christ, we know nothing. We become the foolish individual who may have knowledge of the shortest distance, without knowing the shortest route! Every one who professes to be a follower of Christ, whether a Church leader, a minister, a small group leader, or a Christian parent must know what they're talking about! Do you truly know what (or who) you are talking about today?
Lord, thank you for the blessing of knowing you on a personal level! Amen.