Last week we learned that Nicodemus was a part of the upper crust of Jewish religious society in Jerusalem. Let’s see what he says to Jesus in this one-on-one discussion.
2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” John 3:2
Is Nicodemus just buttering him up or stating an observation? We don’t know. It feels like there is a question coming to me. But before Nicodemus can say another thing, Jesus steps right in to the conversation. As he often does, it appears that Jesus goes off in a different direction, but he always has insight into the bigger picture. He knows what Nicodemus needs.
3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” John 3:3
“Born again.” No that phrase didn’t originate during Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign, it came from this scene with Nicodemus. It is the essence of what Nicodemus needs, but doesn’t know. Of course, in the literal mind of Nicodemus, he takes offense at what seems a ridiculous statement. It takes him completely off guard.
4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” John 3:4
Jesus is talking about spiritual things while Nicodemus is thinking with his physical mind. Every day a good Jewish man gets up and recites the shema from Deuteronomy that he must love the Lord with heart, mind, and soul. Perhaps “soul” has just become a word to Nicodemus. Jesus spells it out.
5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit [capital “S”] gives birth to spirit. [lower case “s”] 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ “ John 3:5-7
Nicodemus’ blank look must necessitate further explanation, so Jesus gives an illustration, typical of the parable-teller.
8 “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
The Spirit is not something to be dissected and discussed like an oral law. The Spirit works in the inner man, in his very soul.
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. John 3:9
I think I hear Jesus giving a sigh at this point which comes forward as a rebuke. They tended to be very straight forward, plain-spoken, even abrupt in their culture – not like our southern hospitality style.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and you do not understand these things? 11 I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” John 3:10-12
I have to wonder how many times Jesus looks at me with a sigh and a shake of the head, wanting to share the jewels of heaven with me, but I’m occupied with the plastic jewelry of this world. How many times have I quenched the Spirit because my head and my heart are preoccupied with the mundane?
Draw us close, oh Lord, that we may sense your Spirit moving in our lives, moving strong and forceful, gentle and caressing – like the wind.
~ Joyce ~