“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” (John 3:1 – 2)
I wish, beloved reader, that you could be here beside me and read with me the commentary on this passage. I have read this passage many times, and have written on it almost as often as I have read it. But it struck me this time that Jesus does not really respond to Nicodemus’ assertion of Jesus’ connection to God, or Yahweh as Nicodemus might have referred to him. The commentators do not take any special note about Jesus diving right into teaching Nicodemus. Or perhaps the writer of the gospel of John omitted the small talk and niceties in lieu of tackling this unlikely exchange between this Pharisee and the Messiah.
“Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Verses 3 – 8)
The “birth” of a Christian. It is an interesting concept. Can you imagine, beloved reader, the “seed” of the gospel being planted in someone who open and receptive to hearing it. The nurturing that goes on the aids the growth, until ready to push through the old way of thinking to a new way of thinking. As I think about these things, I hear the echo of my grandfather’s voice preaching to his congregation. The seed was planted in me when I was very young. And everyone around me nurtured that at every step of my childhood. I can still clearly remember in Sunday School that so many of the biblical and theological concepts that were taught to the Sunday school class were already well known to me. And when I heard and saw my peers struggle with these faith concepts, I wonder why; and I wondered why they came so easily to me.
“Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?” (Verses 9 – 12)
The commentators are want to tell me that the “we” in this passage is meant to represent Jesus and his apostles who teach those who have interest and desire to know and follow Jesus’ way. And Jesus’ statement makes me wonder what “heavenly things” there were/are to be told. I tell you truly, beloved reader, I long to know about such “heavenly things.”
“No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (Verses 13 – 15)
I imagine that by now Nicodemus may have been overwhelmed with this teaching and struggled to understand what the implications were. It heartens me (and I hope it heartens you) to know that Nicodemus undertook for the care of Jesus’ body after his crucifixion. And perhaps Nicodemus understood why Jesus rose from death. Maybe Nicodemus was part of the large group that was witness to the Pentecost.
And, beloved reader, do not forget that this scripture and the others from this week are cited in celebration and commemoration of Trinity Sunday. These passages are seen and understood as under girding the idea that the Three Aspects of the Divine work in harmony – yes, under girding each other.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (Verses 16 – 17)
God the Creator sent Jesus the Messiah into the world so that the world would be readied to accept the Spirit which did and still does give birth to faith and believers of the Divine. Not birth through flesh, but birth through Spirit which comes from and is the Divine. Shalom & Selah!