Our Gospel this week is John 3:1-17, taken today from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).
There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to him at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform these signs you do unless God were with him.” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can these things be?” asked Nicodemus. “Are you a teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?” Jesus replied. “Truly I tell you, we speak what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you do not accept our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven — the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
When I read this passage I’m curious about why Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. The obvious answer is so he wouldn’t be seen by other Pharisees and members of the Council and perhaps lose his position of authority. However, his motive may not be secrecy, perhaps he just wanted a private conversation with Jesus to ask questions and discuss His teachings.
From his statement “we know that you are a teacher who has come from God” (v. 2) Nicodemus and other Pharisees already see the truth in what Jesus says and does. However, as we hear in their exchange, he does not completely understand what Jesus teaches about being born again. He tries to put it into a human context when there is no earthly comparison.
Jesus used nature and human things as examples for us to have an idea what He means, but these are only to guide us to the truth. He teaches us “the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed” (Mark 4:30), not “the kingdom of heaven is a mustard seed” – big difference! We need to listen and learn from these examples and apply them in our lives as Jesus intends.
Loving Lord, we want to understand, but help us to believe even when we are confused. Bless us to share Your love and care with all Your children everywhere. Amen.