The Name Game – Part 2

your-name-hereContinuing the discussion about how we go about naming Jesus to a person and culture who do not have the same frame of reference that we do: In any discussion, there are certain presumptions. If I say “Hello,” and you say “Hi,” I may presume you speak English and embark on a conversation. It’s my presumption you are going to understand what I say. Better still, if you’ve ever spoken a feeble, eighth-grade inspired “Buenos Dias,” to someone who fluently speaks Spanish and they then launch into a Spanish monologue, leaving you in the conversational dust, only able to sputter “Que?” you probably understand what I mean.


We often engage in conversations about Jesus thinking we’re all speaking the same language. I once wrote a little skit to highlight this disconnection of ideas, where the believer would use terms like “washed in the blood” to the horror of the non-believer. Jesus ran into similar circumstances as He spoke to Nicodemus, a religious scholar of his day.


There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘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 3:1-2


nicodemus_51Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of what constituted the then Jewish Supreme Court. As a political and social party, the Pharisees were zealots for adhering to ritual and took great pride in that they maintained religious purity based on the Mosaic Law and their own strict traditions. Notice that Nicodemus calls Jesus “Rabbi,” a term of honor and recognition for a teacher of God’s truth. He was willing to acknowledge, as would many scholars in today’s world, that Jesus taught important truths about God. Nicodemus was even willing to go as far as to recognize the miraculous things Jesus had done.


However, note how very candid Jesus is in His response. He does not, as some modern methodologies would advise, shy away from religious or church words or terms. He immediately addresses Nicodemus’s primary need: rebirth as a true son of God. Jesus knew what He had just said would both resonate and trouble the Pharisee. As a Jew, Nicodemus understood the birth analogy. Aside from the obvious reference to physical birth, Jews also understood this terminology to refer to a conversion experience; persuading one to a new, and obviously, better way of life. But Nicodemus chooses to challenge Jesus over the literal birth meaning.



you_must_born_againNicodemus repeats the same words Jesus used twice, but without the born “again” qualifier and that is key, because that little word, “again,” also means from above; a specific spiritual reference which Jesus goes on to explain to the man.


We are often coached, by those who seek to reach a post-modern, post-Christian society, to avoid “church” words, since they will have little meaning for our hearers and may even offend them. Jesus Himself purposely uses language that would provoke both thought and some confusion, causing the listener to question further. And those questions are a natural invitation for us to share our testimonies about Christ and His ministry in our lives.


Rather than fearing my words would offend a listener, I fear misleading or worse still failing to communicate truth to them. In fact, there are times when I would question if my words are not offensive, whether they are accurate and true. The message of the Gospel is at once offensive, to those in sin’s grasp, due to the convicting power of the truth, and on the other hand very appealing to a generation that is looking for something authentic. Our witness needs to express true devotion to our Lord and Savior, Who has something to offer this post-modern generation: the unadulterated truth that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life for their sins and that trusting Christ is their only way to re-establish a relationship with the Holy God of all creation. 


God Bless & Grace 2 U,



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