(2021 08 Aug) The people were ready… sort of

Devotional thoughts for August 2021

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... where I discuss the thinking that led to this article.)

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:1–2, NIV)

Nicodemus visited Jesus in secret — and he was not acting in an official capacity as a leader of the Jews. However, he told Jesus what they understood about him. No one could do the types of works Jesus was doing unless they were sent from God! When we combine this with the Jewish expectation of a Messiah, the people were ready for a guy like Jesus... sort of.

The problem for the first century Jews was that Jesus did not meet their expectations. Scripture said that a Messiah would come — and it gave many details… but it did not give a comprehensive teaching about him. So, there was a lot of speculation. Jesus hit every scriptural target, but he missed most of their cultural expectations.

We have the same problem today. People have their own ideas about what Jesus should be. But the real Jesus — the biblical Jesus — will not stay in a box... so he does not “sell” well in contemporary Western culture. People want a prosperity genie... or a person who will affirm that other methods of salvation are valid. But the real Jesus will have none of that. The real Jesus only deals in truth… and truth is expensive.

Have you seen the video series The Chosen? I love their portrayal of the Jesus/Nicodemus relationship. You see, the Bible has enough data for the writers to legitimately cast Nicodemus as an earnest seeker, but they extend that story. We meet Nicodemus’ wife who likes the life they have… and Nicodemus is in profound personal anguish about whether or not to follow Jesus.

Why does this resonate as true? What earnest seeker would not be drawn to the person who is “The Truth”? Consider Nicodemus’s social antipole… the woman at the well. Jesus affected Nicodemus as he affected her... with life-changing profundity! But, since Nicodemus had rank among those who studied Scripture... he would have more to lose by following Jesus.

We Westerners think we have Christianity all figured out. But we don’t. We chafe at its hardships and we chafe at its truth. What hardships? … you may ask. Salvation is free, isn’t it?

Yes, salvation is free! But salvation is expensive in terms of self — in terms of embedded ideas. Too many people who call themselves Christians think that living good lives will keep them from hell… or that sincerity of belief is the key... or that God will save everyone and/or annihilate the rest. These are false ideas… and ideas have consequences.

Do these words resonate as true with you? If you have the indwelling Holy Spirit, they should. If not, it might be because you are expecting the wrong Jesus. Click here to find the right one.


(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20210726 People never expect the real Jesus).

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com)