Blessed Are The Curious
March 5, 2023
St. Stephen’s UMC, Burke, VA
John 3:1–17 (NRSV)
Who are “the curious” in our midst? The easy answer is children. We are familiar with all of their “whys.” My daughter has started doing it, and we fully anticipate the endless repetition of “whys.”
But what makes children more curious compared to us adults? Is it their willingness to learn something new? Is it being unafraid and unashamed to ask questions? Does it have to do with their unassuming nature to accept that they do not have all the answers? Is it about them having a childlike imagination that is not bound by knowledge or experience?
When was the last time curiosity hijacked your brain and your heart — when you couldn’t stop thinking about someone or dying to know about something?
I’ll be very honest. I am curious about my second child, what she will be like, her personality, her looks, her everything. But I am not as curious as I was when we were expecting our first child.
I’ll be very honest, again. Exactly one year ago, I learned I would be appointed here at St. Stephen’s in July 2022, and I was dying to know who you were. Now, after eight months, not as much. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still very curious, and some of you know I haven’t stopped poking around, but now I’m not losing my sleep over it.
If you can somewhat relate to me here, then we can agree that what often stifles our curiosity is familiarity. And what familiarity breeds is often certainty and, worse, apathy. That is why children are so curious; their whole world is filled with what is unfamiliar. And that’s why we grown-ups are not so much curious; we favor what is familiar.
“Blessed are the Curious.”
In this Lenten season, we reexamine our faith and discipleship in Christ. You know how much I like to call it a journey, and this following quote perfectly describes my understanding of Christian discipleship:
This faith adventure is also a relationship — a communal journey with God and one another. Curiosity is often a language of love. And what often kills relationships is a lack of curiosity. Sometimes we must intentionally try to rekindle our curiosity to save our relationships.
I believe in the God who is curious about us. Of course, we believe in the omniscient God who knows everything. Yet, I believe God is still curious about us because that is how much God loves us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” yet have you ever wondered why the Son of God had to be born as a baby and lived thirty years with us before he began his ministry? The all-knowing, all-powerful God surely could’ve just sent Jesus in his final form to accomplish the divine mission. Yet, the Son of God was born amongst us in the humblest way and lived with us as fully human. I believe this was because Jesus is Immanuel, God-with-us, and God chose to be with us because of love.
And if God weren’t so curious about us, it would’ve made more sense to send the Son into the world to condemn the world, for what kills the relationship is a lack of curiosity. But today’s scripture says otherwise.
“Blessed are the Curious.”
Of course, this is not written in the Bible. But this phrase reminds me of the words Jesus said to Thomas later in the Gospel of John: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (20:29).
Our belief in Christ, or faith, is not simply built upon the things visible, physical, seen, and comprehensible.
God wants us to see the invisible, a deeper reality, through the visible.
This is why God sent Jesus Christ to us as fully human and fully divine — for us to see the invisible Father through the visible Son. This is why we are gifted with both the Holy Spirit and the Church — to walk with the invisible Christ through the visible community.
Our faith requires more of a hope-filled curiosity to see a deeper reality and to come to believe what is invisible, spiritual, unseen, and incomprehensible.
This is why our Christian discipleship is more of a journey into the unknown — a deeper reality where two seemingly contradictory things can be true at once, which Kate Bowler, the author of our devotional, describes:
A reality where Jesus is from this world AND not of this world,
where Jesus is human AND the Son of God,
where Jesus will be humiliated AND exalted upon the cross,
where Jesus died AND still lives,
where Jesus is the sign of God’s love AND the one who asks us to have faith in things we cannot yet see…
At the beginning of John Chapter 3, Jesus tried to explain this reality to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a leader, and, most importantly, a person who followed Jesus’ ministry.
John Chapter 2 ends with the following account (vv. 23–25, MSG):
Many people noticed the signs [Jesus] was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them.
The Gospel of John is often known as the Gospel of Signs, referring to miracles. Many people gave their lives to Jesus not only because they witnessed these signs with their own eyes but also because they anticipated receiving signs for the transformation of their lives. Yet we are told early on that Jesus did not trust those who followed him because of his signs. And Nicodemus was one of them.
And it was Nicodemus who approached Jesus at night, to tell him that he believed Jesus came from God, for no one can do these signs apart from God’s presence. But here, Jesus confronted Nicodemus, saying that no one can see God’s kingdom without being born from above.
By now, I hope you are wondering why I’m using the phrase “born from above” instead of “born again.” And it is because it is both. Its Greek word has a double meaning of both “again” AND “from above.”
Nicodemus was stuck with one level of thinking — being born again — and could not see beyond it. He was stuck with what was familiar, so he could not see the deeper reality that Jesus was pointing to. To us, that reality is one in which our sins are washed away AND we are called to live a life led by the Spirit of God.
Nicodemus believed in Jesus because he became familiar with Jesus’ physical signs. Thus, he was stuck with the idea of physical birth only, asking Jesus how one could go back to the mother’s womb. To this, Jesus responded by saying it is both: being born of water AND the Spirit, both physical AND spiritual, both visible AND invisible, both seen AND unseen, and living a new life that lives into this deeper reality both comprehensible AND incomprehensible.
Yes, we might be familiar with the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, but do we also see its deeper reality that he is the bread of life? Yes, we might be familiar with the story of Jesus healing a blind person, but do we also see its deeper reality that he is the light of the world?
Yes, we might be familiar with the words of the Bible, but do we also see its deeper reality that Jesus is the Word who lives in us?
Yes, we might be familiar with the bread and the cup visibly placed on our altar, but do we also see the deeper reality of God’s invisible grace ready to be poured into our lives?
Yes, we might be familiar with the sweet sound of Easter morning, but do we also see the deeper reality of Jesus inviting us to walk alongside him to the cross daily?
Nicodemus serves as a stereotype for those who live in a state of certainty with things familiar to them yet fail to see what is beyond their experience and knowledge, unable to understand the deeper reality of God’s kingdom.
The more I reflect on this story, the more I feel that Jesus was too harsh on Nicodemus. It is not true that Nicodemus was only interested in Jesus’ signs. He recognized that Jesus was from God and was curious enough to visit him at night.
Did Nicodemus interrupt Jesus’ sleep? Is that why Jesus was being so harsh?
Or maybe Jesus’ words served as an abrupt wake-up call to those who, like Nicodemus, have been on this faith journey for a long time or those whose faith has become too familiar. Sometimes even the season of Lent becomes a familiar routine for many of us, something we go through that no longer evokes our curiosity. Perhaps we are stuck like Nicodemus, despite our best intentions.
But this is not a message where I ask you to become more curious. Rather, the message for us today is to recognize curiosity as a love language pointing us to the deeper reality of God’s kingdom. And for us to acknowledge and encourage this God-given gift rather than suppress it, whether we see the spark of curiosity within ourselves or in others.
- Blessed are those who doubt, search, and seek the truth.
- Blessed are those who ask hard questions with no easy answers.
- Blessed are those who wrestle with the paradoxes of faith.
- Blessed are those who welcome the nuances of life.
- Blessed are those who admit they don’t have all the answers.
- Blessed are those who are willing to learn something new.
- Blessed are those with childlike imaginations.
- Blessed are the dreamers.
- Blessed are the peacemakers.
- Blessed are those who welcome new adventures despite risks.
- Blessed are the curious.
During this season of Lent, I pray that we may be reminded of the God who is so curious about us. I pray that we open our eyes to see the One who is always with us, even in our pain, shame, and brokenness. And I pray that God’s radical love sparks curiosity in us for God, one another, and ourselves, so that we may see the deeper reality of God’s kingdom revealed and hidden all around our lives.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Minoo Kim is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, currently serving in the Virginia Annual Conference. Follow his Mecium profile to receive his latest sermons or check out his website minoowkim.com for his latest content. Peace!