Chapter 1 is titled The most famous conversation in the Bible. There's no escaping the centrality of the words at the heart of this conversation (John 3:16) to evangelical Christian faith. What struck me most as I read Max's picture of the unfolding conversation was the contrast between the worlds represented by Nicodemus and Jesus.
Behold the Continental Divide of Scripture, the international date line of faith. Nicodemus stands on one side, Jesus on the other and Christ pulls no punches about their differences.Nicodemus inhabits a land of good efforts, sincere gestures, and hard work. Give God your best, his philosophy says, and God does the rest.
Jesus's response? Your best won't do. Your works don't work. Your finest efforts don't mean squat, Unless you are born again, you can't even see what God is up to.
This is not about who Nicodemus is as much as it is about what he represents. Just as the woman at the well in the next chapter of the gospel represents the other end of the social and religious spectrum.
Whatever we think we know, Jesus blows it out of the water, and he challenges us to rethink what it means to connect with God.
The ease with which the words of John 3:16 fall from many a Christian's lips rob them from time to time of their majesty and their simplicity. "God loves, God gives, we believe, we live", as Max would say.