The Sermon for Trinity Sunday, May 26th, 2024

The Lessons: Exodus 3:1-6; Psalm 93; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-16

The Text: John 3:1-16


The doctor said, “If you are a believer in miracles, this would be one.”

The doctor was talking about Alcides Moreno. By every law of physics and medicine, Moreno should have died. Moreno was a window washer in Manhattan. He rode platforms with his brother Edgar high into the sky to wash skyscrapers. From there he could look down to see the pavement far below where the people looked like ants. On December 7, 2007, catastrophe struck the Moreno family. As the brothers worked on the forty-seventh story of a high-rise, their platform collapsed, and Alcides and Edgar fell from the sky.

If you are a believer in miracles, this would be one.

No, Alcides Moreno didn’t land on a passing airplane or catch his shirt on a flagpole or have anything else amazing happen like you see in the movies; he fell the entire forty-seven stories to the pavement below. As would be expected, his brother Edgar died from the fall, but somehow Alcides did not. He lived. For two weeks he hung on to life by a thread. Then, on Christmas Day, he spoke and reached out to touch his nurse’s face. One month later, the doctors were saying that he would probably walk again some day.

If you are a believer in miracles, this would be one.

In the beginning of the human race, Adam also fell from a great height. From sinless glory in the image of God, Adam rebelled against God and fell into sin, death, and judgment, and in this terrible fall he brought with him the whole human race. But “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV). God the Son left the heights of heaven and descended to the earth to become a man. He lived a sinless life and then willingly went to the cross to die for the sins of Adam’s fallen race. On the third day he rose again, and in his resurrection he made it possible for all to rise again and live forever.

If you are a believer in miracles, this would be one.[1]

– Craig Brian Larson: “Window Washer Falls 47 Stories, Survives,”; source: “It Wasn’t All Bad,” The Week (January 18, 2008)


Drawn by the Holy Spirit, who is leading him to find out more about God at work in Jesus Christ to perform miracles, Nicodemus, a Pharisee and “a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1), comes to speak to Jesus at night, probably to avoid the suspicion or ridicule of his fellow-Pharisees, who might not even have agreed with him that Jesus was a rabbi who had been sent by God. Nicodemus admits that no-one could do the miracles Jesus was doing unless God were with him (John 3:2). He shows that he is searching for the truth of who Jesus really is.

Jesus Christ answers him with a statement that at first seems to confuse Nicodemus: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, KJV). The expression “born again” would have been comprehensible to Jews in the first century when used of proselytes, that is, people of other nations embracing Judaism, and a passage like 2 Kings 5:1-14, in which Naaman the Syrian, obeying the prophet Elisha’s instructions to go and wash in the Jordan River seven times, is completely cured of his leprosy. He received new life in that he was completely healed of his disease. But it was far more difficult for a Jewish person to accept that he had to be born again. Now the Greek word which our English word “again” translates can also mean “from above,” that is, “from heaven.” The Lord is speaking of spiritual rebirth, without which a person cannot enter God’s kingdom, which also means receiving eternal life.

Why did Nicodemus misunderstand this saying? He interpreted being born again in a physical sense probably because, being a Jew, he could not at first accept that any Jew needed to be born again spiritually.

The Lord Jesus Christ answered Nicodemus’ question about how a person is born again by explaining that unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (v. 5), and by emphasizing that what is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit (v. 6). Being born again is being born from above, or born spiritually, that is, one’s spirit receives new birth from the Holy Spirit.


The Sacrament of Holy Baptism in the life of the believer signifies this event, although the experience of it may come later in a Christian’s life, as he submits to the repentance signified by the effusion with water in Baptism, and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. Rebirth given by the Holy Spirit gives rise to the Holy Spirit’s presence in a person’s life, and His directing that person in the way of Christ to do the Father’s will. When this happens, the Christian’s life becomes like the Spirit who directs it – like the unpredictable wind whose sound we hear, but we do not know whence it comes and whither it goes (John 3:8). This means, really, that the Holy Spirit has full control over the direction and course of our lives. Baptism signifies that we have turned away from a sinful, selfish way of life in which we ourselves decide what we want to do at every point in our lives, that we repent of this, and have turned to the Lord Jesus Christ, believing in him for the forgiveness of sins, and following him as Lord for the rest of our lives. These decisions, and this faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and our Baptism, lead to the Holy Spirit coming to live in us as our eternal Guide. Surrendering ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ and obeying Him as our Lord, bring about a new birth from heaven, in which the Holy Spirit gives our spirit new life. Because this new birth is given by the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus emphasized that a person must be born of water and the Spirit to enter God’s kingdom.


Since Nicodemus still does not understand these truths, the Lord Jesus reminds him of the bronze serpent that Moses erected on a pole in the wilderness, so that Israelites bitten by poisonous snakes might look upon the bronze snake and be healed (Numbers 21:8). Similarly, the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ himself must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him (John 3:15). This is the remedy and medicine for the poisonous snakebite of sin. The lifting up of Jesus is His crucifixion, which in St. John’s Gospel account, is also his glorification. John Calvin interpreted the lifting up of the Son of Man here as also the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world, including the written record of the Gospel, so that everyone may look upon the Son, turn to Him, and believe in Him, so receiving the eternal life found in Him.

Then comes that well-known verse, John 3:16, which tells us that the cross was not Jesus’ idea, and that He was not a mere man offering his life for the life of the world, but that it was God, who loved the world so much, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Just as the sinful Israelites could not provide their own anti-venom for their deadly snakebites, nor can any human being on earth provide the remedy for sin, the antidote for its poison, although many might think they can. The salvation of the world was not based on any ordinary human merit, but proceeded from the infinite love of God in giving His only Son to die on a cross to redeem the world from sin and reconcile it to Himself. The mission of the Son in this world was not to judge it, Jesus says, but to save it (John 3:17). The way to being born again ought now to be clear through Jesus’ teaching: it is to repent of sin, to be washed by the waters of Baptism, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life, and to receive Him as Lord.


In the new birth of the believer, we see the operation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is the Originator, who in his inestimable love for mankind gave Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son for the life of the world. The Son is the Redeemer of the world, to whom we look and in whom we believe for eternal life, and the Holy Spirit brings us to new birth as God’s children adopted by grace, and directs our lives.


The message of the Gospel and of eternal salvation is a powerful one. It is important that we take the time to know and understand this message before proclaiming it to those whom we encounter.

Firstly, have you turned completely away from a selfish way of life and received Jesus Christ as Lord (John 1:12; 14:23, 25), so that you may live life directed by the Holy Spirit?

Secondly, how will you relay this message to the world, so that others may come to believe and have eternal life?

[1] p.190, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

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