What is the connection between Isaiah and his vision of the Holy One in the temple in the First Reading for the First Sunday of Pentecost (Isaiah 6: 1-8) and the story of Jesus and Nicodemus in the Gospel Reading from John 3: 1- 17? Perhaps we can get some help from an analysis of the contextual background.
Isaiah describes his vision “in the year that King Uzziah died”.
According to 2 Chronicles 26 Uzziah came to power when he was 16, was a reformer and a major figure whose influence extended as far as Egypt. He reigned for 52 years from 785 – 733 BCE. According to 2 Chronicles, “he went out and made war against the Philistines, and broke down the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod; he built cities in the territory of Ashdod and elsewhere among the Philistines” (Aside: This may very much sound like today).
Verse 4 notes that Uzziah did “what was right in the sight of the Lord, just as his father Amazigh had done”.
Then things changed. “When he had become strong he grew proud, to his destruction” (Verse 16). Pride and arrogance led him to attempt to assume the priestly duties of offering sacrifice in the temple. He was struck with leprosy and ended up dying in isolation.
In the Gospel Reading, there is this Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin by the name of Nicodemus, a Greek name which means “people victory” who goes to see Jesus at night because – well, he was a member of the religious establishment which was opposed to Jesus. Only John has this story and John mentions him again in chapter 7 when he comes to Jesus’ defense and in chapter 19 when he and Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus.
It is safe to surmise that Nicodemus was a secret follower – or at least an admirer – of Jesus. Much has been written and many sermons preached on Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus. Indeed, perhaps no verse in the whole bible can equal John 3: 16 in being committed to memory.
But, beyond all that, on this Trinity Sunday, what are we learning?