Summary: Jesus and Nicodemus meet late at night and discuss being born from above, and God’s love for the world.
John 3:1-21 “A New Beginning”
I’m a destination man, perhaps you are, too. I’m a person who likes to get to where I am going, enjoy what I came to enjoy, and then return home. I don’t pay much attention to what’s in between my departure point and my destination. This is why I like interstate highways and direct flights.
But there are others who enjoy the trip itself. The destination is not necessarily the high point, rather getting there is. As Clark Griswold said in National Lampoon’s “Vacation,” “Getting there is half the fun. These people avoid the interstates and don’t mind flying standby. They will stop at those historical markers, read the entire inscription, and take a picture of them and the marker. It takes them forever to get to their destination.
Much to my chagrin, I think that the Christian life, the life of faith as a disciple of Jesus Christ, is not so much about the destination as it is the journey. The emphasis isn’t in the sweet bye and bye, but in the living in God’s kingdom today. The story of Nicodemus is an example of this truth.
I like Nicodemus. He is a leader of the people, and a religious man, who realizes that he doesn’t have his life totally in order; he doesn’t have all of the answers. The writer of the gospel of John likes Nicodemus, also. Even though Nicodemus is a member of the Pharisees and a Jewish religious leader, the writer casts him in a positive light.
In verse two, we read that Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night. He certainly did this because he didn’t want his colleagues and associates to know what he was doing. In the gospel of John, though, the darkness also represents the domain of evil. Evil likes to lurk in the darkness—we acknowledge this when we avoid dark alleys and unlit parking lots. The darkness is also a place where it is easy to become lost.
Nicodemus comes to Jesus out of the darkness. He recognizes that Jesus is a teacher and confesses that obviously God’s presence is with him. He doesn’t see that Jesus is the Messiah. Nicodemus’ knowledge is incomplete.
I think it is important for Christians to confess that we are much like Nicodemus and to imitate him. We need to realize that we don’t have all of the answers and that our destination is not to have all of the answers. The Christian life is asking questions, seeking answers and exploring possibilities. A searching spirit is important as a disciple of Jesus Christ. It enables us to grow in our life and in our faith, and it opens us up to the surprises that God has in store for us.
Have you ever been a part of a conversation in which you thought you were talking about the same thing? The bits and pieces of the conversation didn’t quite fit together, however, and you eventually discovered that you were talking about two different things. This is what happens in Nicodemus’ conversation with Jesus.
In verse 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that people must be born from above if they are to enter into the kingdom of God. Nicodemus latches on to the alternate meaning of the word and thinks that Jesus is talking about being born again, and Nicodemus doesn’t see how that can be done. But, Nicodemus wants to understand.
Jesus talks about the movement of the Holy Spirit in verses 6 through 8. Nicodemus knows about the Spirit of God. He understands that the Spirit is a bit uncontrollable. In the Old Testament there are stories of the Spirit descending upon the prophets—even King Saul—and then departing. The idea, though, that the Spirit gives new life, and that a person must be touched by the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God, rather than follow all of the religious rituals and restrictions of the Pharisees is new to him. Nicodemus responds, “How can this be?”
We may know a lot about the physical side of life e.g., what foods are good for us to eat, how to make friends and influence people, and how to ride a bicycle. We are not quite so knowledgeable about spiritual things. Nicodemus displays an inquiring mind, and reminds us that the Holy Spirit is present in our lives to teach us about things of the Spirit. But, the Spirit waits for us to want to learn.
The path of searching spirits and inquiring minds always leads to a loving God. After talking with Nicodemus about being born from above and life in God’s kingdom, Jesus talks about God, the Father. God is a God of love. God so loved the world that he sent his son so that people could be born from above and live in God’s kingdom.