What happens before the Bible’s most famous verse, John 3:16? To Jesus, the
master conversationalist, it’s all fair game toward one overriding mission.
Nicodemus is confused. Jesus comes right back at him. “Pay attention. That which is holy and true to God is like the wind….”
Back and forth the two men go at it. At every turn, Jesus drives the discussion exactly where He wants to go, verbally batting Nicodemus back and forth—first this way, then that.
How does Jesus get away with such verbal antics?
Nicodemus already is risking all to have this one conversation with Jesus.
So, Jesus doesn’t waste time. He rudely interrupts, He ruthlessly changes the subject…with one provocative statement after another.
Finally, Jesus presents the most quoted verse in the Bible.
In shocking deference to the itinerant preacher from Galilee, Nicodemus motions for Jesus to stand up first, follows suit, walks to the door, says something only Jesus can hear, and then quietly slips away.
James, the brother of John, shakes his head back and forth, laughs, and says, “Jesus, now what was that all about?”
To Jesus, the master conversationalist, relationship and meaning triumph over social norms…every time. He interrupts, He puzzles, He changes the subject, He provokes, He monologues.
It’s all fair game toward one overriding mission. To shake Nicodemus to the core of his being. Then, to inflict many a sleepless night. Finally, to haunt him with statements he never wanted to hear. And, ultimately, to win his heart.
Yes, Jesus doesn’t play “nice.” Like Nicodemus, each person desperate or courageous enough to talk with Jesus ends up facing a terrible decision. Love Him? Hate Him? Accept Him? Deride Him?
Like Jesus, Don’t Play “Nice”
How does this apply to you and those you lead?
Now, as in the days of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, it’s overridingly important to invite, to cajole, and then to jokingly ridicule someone until they say, “Yes, I’ll read the Jesus story with you.”
When you sit down to do just that, remember Jesus’ example. Ask them to read a few verses aloud. Then ask them what it means. When you get to something Jesus says or does, ask them what they think of what Jesus just said or did.
In particular ask, “Do you think Jesus is trying to be nice?”
Of course not. That’s the whole point. Nice isn’t nice. Nice isn’t loving. It isn’t true. It’s the illegitimate child of Romanticism, which turned the meaning of the word on its head.
“Nice” is a condescending, sarcastic way to say someone is naïve, ignorant, stupid.
So, keep asking, “Do you think Jesus is trying to be nice?”
Keep pounding away at that question until they finally get it.
Once we rescue Jesus from “nice,” He becomes real in their eyes. And then His sometimes seemingly rude, ruthless ways begin to make sense.
Only then can your not-yet-Christian friend make sense of Jesus’ life, His teachings, His miracles, His passion, His crucifixion, His burial, His resurrection, His post-resurrection appearances, His ascension, and His current position at God the Father’s right hand.
Right now, Jesus is praying for you and those you lead to be anything but “nice” Christians.