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John 3:6-15, NIV
6 "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 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."
9 "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.
10 "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you 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?
13 "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."
December 9, 2010This is the middle section of their one on one encounter. Jesus has just finished telling Nicodemus that no one can see the kingdom of God unless he or she is born again. Then Jesus told him to study the wind, because there's more to this world than meets the eye. The kingdom of God is not tangible. I cannot physically hear, touch, smell, taste or observe how it works. Like the wind, it doesn't require explanation; it simply exists.
There's also more to being a religious leader than possessing a title. I doubt if there was anything inferior about the intellect of Nicodemus,or his knowledge of Israel's history and sacred Scriptures. It's very likely he knew much more about Moses and the Prophets than the disciples of Jesus did. So what was it that Nicodemus missed, what didn't he see?
And there's more to the 'snake on the pole' story than is told in Numbers 21:8-9. Jesus, the only authority on the mysteries of heaven, revived the incident and drew a parallel. God, now and in the present tense, would give them something to see! He, the Son of Man, will be lifted up and everyone who pays attention and sees what has happened and takes it all in, will have eternal life.
The question Nicodemus asked still echoes: "How can this be?" To anyone who really wants to know, Jesus would probably say the same words as he said to his disciples, "Come and see."
More journal entries
December 10, 2010
The story of Nicodemus is about looking and really seeing. Seeing the miracles and recognizing that God was present in them; the possibility of seeing by faith the kingdom of God; believing the revelation that Jesus will one day be 'lifted up' for the healing of all who trust in him. Seeing the miracles and seeing Jesus on the cross--if seeing is believing then this physical evidence is necessary. But to see the kingdom of God, that is like the wind
November 21, 2001Nicodemus, if you don't understand what I am saying to you, go study the wind! You can't see it or catch it in your hands. You don't know where it comes from or where it is going. It's the same with the Spirit. It blows/comes and goes/is present. You can't make it happen or stop it from happening. You are not responsible for its presence. Nor are you able to dictate where or when or how the wind/spirit moves.
In verse 9, Nicodemus sounds bewildered. He's beginning to be sorry he came to Jesus!
July 1, 1982We are born both flesh and spirit. Does whichever is nurtured most, become dominate? We are created human (flesh), but we are made in the image of God (spirit). These are the two that struggle within us until one gives in or is overcome by the other. We are all capable of acting in the flesh (sin) or acting in the Spirit (righteousness). In a spiritual conversion we give the flesh to God so he can start to re-create it. Daily acts of surrender are further measures we take so God can perfect his work of re-creation. Perfect might be too strong a verb to use because we're far from perfect. But in the senseof a perfectionist who is not satisfied until everything is as right as it can be.Jesus talked of conversion as being total--all of you, your whole self. Salvation is holistic, yet much of the practice of religion involves only a small part of us.
Lip service, Sunday mornings, prayer when we need supernatural help, half-hearted responses, giving just enough to satisfy our conscience that we have done our duty, closing our eyes to what we don't want to see.
Holistic faith, Nicodemus--not by night, on the sly, in addition to all the other duties of life, or to satisfy your curiosity.
Holistic faith, Kathleen--not only when I have nothing better to do or think about, not only when I'm laid back and in recovery.
Holistic faith is a faith without excuses. Holistic faith is a renewable, life-long spirituality; growing, changing, alive to God. Flowing with the cycles of Palm Sunday, Thursday's foot washing, Gethsemane, Good Friday, Saturday waiting amid uncertainty, and then Easter.
Holistic faith involves all of me in a Gospel that works; sometimes slowly and laboriously, others times spontaneously or with great certitude, everyday of the week in all relationships and circumstances.
July 2, 1982Trust yourself to the wind, Nicodemus, to the winds of God. Jesus used an example from nature and the weather to explain a spiritual truth. To Nicodemus the wind was a mystery, doing what it wanted to do and no one could harness nor control it. We believe there is wind, without understanding it. Being born of God is experienced the same way. The wind of the Spirit is known by the evidence it produces. Understanding comes with belief although much always remains a mystery.
Those concepts Jesus used to chide Nicodemus for his lack of understanding--truth, what we know, what we have seen, our testimony, believe, heavenly things--they all required a degree of faith that Nicodemus lacked. Neither was he able at this point in his life to live in the free-flowing realm of God's Spirit.
Nicodemus was a person who didn't want to be taken in by something false, so he asked a lot of questions and moved slowly. Questions, doubts--these are not necessarily the same. Too late did he make up his mind; too late to benefit from associating with Jesus in the flesh. But in the end he did courageously express his devotion by helping to take Jesus' body from the cross and burying it. Was he among the 120 followers who waited for the Holy Spirit at Pentecost? I'm sorry we don't know anymore about him.
July 4, 1982Yesterday I was thinking about this passage off and on about living in both the physical and the spiritual worlds, a duel citizenship.--And the two blending into one, while living in one, yet always aware of the other. That's probably a very important truth. In the physical world, yet conscious of the spiritual world; in the spiritual world, yet conscious of the physical world. Awareness of one makes me more alive in the other. Involvement in one, adds to the appreciation of the other.
July 7, 1982Being religious does not guarantee anything. Intellectual knowledge is not heart knowledge. It's a start but it doesn't go far enough. We learn the basics before advancing. Being faithful in small things before receiving more responsibility. Learning to love and trust in this world before accepting revelations of the next.
Did Nicodemus think Jesus was tricking him? Was he mistrustful? Must you accept the person before you can believe what they're saying? For many people its more important who is saying it, than what is said.
Jesus really put Nicodemus down --You can't even acknowledge that what I say is true even when I tell you what you already know. How could you possibly acknowledge or believe the truth of what I'm saying if I tell you something you don't already know. You must trust me before you can believe me. You must love me in order to trust me. So where, how does love begin? Maybe by responding affirmatively to that which we already know and have already experienced?
Man reaching for God and God reaching for man. Actually God is the initiator and is consistent and faithful in his reaching although we are not.
We begin to love by responding to love. That sounds like we begin to love by faith. And faith probably comes from love! If I were an intellectual, would it be easier or more difficult to understand these things. Nicodemus tried to understand Jesus by responding with his intellect, which was an inadequate response.
November 22, 2001Jesus: Nicodemus, you are a teacher in Israel, yet you don't understand what I'm talking about? I'm telling you the truth, yet you and your cronies won't accept it. Even things you already know, you will not accept from me. When I speak to you of earthly things, you do not believe. And ironically although you have said you believe I have come from God, you do not trust what I say about heavenly things.
In verse 14 Jesus looks deeply into the eyes of Nicodemus and holds in view his own final event and finds Nicodemus is there (John 19:35-42). He is reminded of the Old Testament story about the healing qualities of the bronze snake on the long pole. Everyone who looked up and saw the snake was healed from their poisonous snakebites (Numbers 21:8-9). Nicodemus, I am going to serve the same purpose as that snake and when you look up at me and finally trust me, you will be born from above, of God, and you will know eternal life. God loves you. God loves the world so much.