Connections 03.11.2018: To Know You

John 3:1-3, 11-21

One of my favorite Christian singer/songwriters is Nichole Nordeman. She put out nearly a dozen albums at the beginning of her career and then took a ten-year break to be home with her children and navigate a personal crisis. Her recent return to songwriting, singing, and making albums has been rather quiet, humble, and reflective—indicating the spiritual work she did during her time away from the limelight. Her new music is stunning, but today’s Scripture reminds me of one of her earliest songs, “To Know You.”

Nichole has never shied away from bold honesty in admitting her questions, confusion, and uncertainty about God. While many people read the story of Nicodemus and criticize him for “sneaking off” to see Jesus under cover of night, Nichole acknowledges the fact that sometimes our questions plague us the most at night. We lie in bed trying to sleep, but something about the darkness and the silence makes us confront our deepest worries and wonderings.

In “To Know You,” Nichole sings about her need to come “face to face” with Jesus—not just to sift through what others are saying about him. Going back to my Coracle entry on February 25, Nichole, like Nicodemus so long ago, is trying to answer Jesus’ most important question: “Who do you say that I am?” In the song, she isn’t sure yet who Jesus is to her, but she’s trying to figure him out. She points to Nicodemus’s struggle to comprehend how people could be born again (see John 3:4). “We might have been good friends,” she admits, “Cause sometimes I still question, too / How easily we come to You.”

We want there to be more, don’t we? And yet Jesus continually simplifies what people so often try to make complicated. “God loves you so much,” Jesus said, “that God sent me. God wants you to live!” (John 3:16). To live is to know Jesus. And to know Jesus can be much simpler than we think. When the questions plague us in the dark of night, let us not be afraid to approach God boldly. God, after all, sent Jesus as “the light that has come into the world” (v. 19). This light can surely help us through our times of darkness so that we can truly know Jesus better.

Sources

Nichole Nordeman, “To Know You,” Wide-Eyed, Star Song Records and Sparrow Records, 1998, lyrics at http://www.klove.com/music/artists/nichole-nordeman/songs/to-know-you-lyrics.aspx.

“Music, Motherhood, and Moxie with Nichole Nordeman, For the Love of Moxie, ep. 7, For the Love Podcast with Jen Hatmaker, transcript available at http://jenhatmaker.com/episode-07-nichole-nordeman.

Discussion

1. What songs, Christian or secular, have you heard that reflect the desire to know God better?
2. How do art forms like music and drama help us explore what it means to be both physical and spiritual beings?
3. John is very keen on pointing out that the Pharisee Nicodemus visited Jesus “by night” (3:2). Why do you think this detail is important? Why do you imagine Nicodemus went at night?
4. What do you do when you are kept awake at night by worries, fears, and questions?
5. How can Jesus bring light into your life? How can you share that light with others?

Reference Shelf

How can people be born from above so that they can see the kingdom of God (v. 9)? The answer is: not by individual mystical ascent into heaven (v. 13a) but by virtue of the descending-ascending Son of Man (vv. 13b-21). How does the descent-ascent of the Son of Man enable it? This text does not explicitly say how, but later in the Gospel the reader is told. It is by the Spirit given after Jesus’ glorification (7:37-39; 20:22) and made possible by it (16:7: “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you”).

By what authority can the earthly Jesus suspend temple sacrifices (2:18)? The answer of this thought unit is: Jesus’ resurrection (2:19-21). How can the resurrection of Jesus (part of his ascent) legitimate Christian non-involvement in temple sacrifices? This text does not say explicitly, but later in the Gospel the reader is told. It is after his resurrection that Jesus gives the Spirit (20:22), and true worship is in Spirit (4:24). Implicit in the train of thought of 2:13–3:21 is the conviction that Jesus’ resurrection/ascent enables a new birth by the Spirit and thereby makes possible true worship in Spirit. It is in this sense that Jesus’ resurrection legitimates non-involvement in temple sacrifices. John 2:13–3:21 is the first of seven episodes making the point that Christian worship that fulfills and thereby goes beyond Jewish worship has a warrant in something the earthly Jesus did and said.

Charles H. Talbert, Reading John, Reading the New Testament (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 1992) 107.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She is also the office administrator for Jay’s HOPE, a local charity serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her daughters, Samantha (12) and Natalie (10) and her husband John. For fun, she tries to stay caught up on the latest amazing TV series (including Doctor Who, Sherlock, Gilmore Girls, and The Crown).

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