Summary: We just must understand that there is no Magic in the bible, but there sure is plenty of Mystery.
May 27, 2018
Mystery vs Magic
I enjoy a good mystery. As I read or watch a mystery, I find myself engrossed in looking for clues in hopes of solving the mystery for myself prior to it being revealed in the reading or program. In today’s gospel reading, there are certainly mysteries to be delved into. As I so often say, we must try and avoid reading between the lines or formulating answers from suppositions and that applies even more so in Scripture reading.
In this reading, Nicodemus seeks a private meeting with Jesus. So, first of all, who is Nicodemus? In one source – Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Jerusalem Publishing House 1986, Nicodemus (“conqueror for the people”) is referred to as a secret disciple of Jesus and probably a member of the Sanhedrin. The Pharisees lived under the strictest possible religious rules. As an aside: there are sects and religious organizations even today which forbid visiting churches that hold to different tenets and doctrines than theirs.
Well, it’s easy to view Nicodemus as a secret disciple because he went to Jesus in the night. Here we have two views as to why in the dark of night. 1) He did not want to be seen visiting Jesus the Teacher. It would be quite an issue for a devout Pharisee, to be seen socializing with the very person that was the object of disdain of these non-believers. 2) Perhaps, Nicodemus wasn’t all that concerned about being controversial but rather simply sought a private meeting, without creating a scene.
As we read, Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus can not do what He does without God. Verse 2
Jesus responds in typical Jesus form: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.;’” verse 3
Born again! Born again? Just what does that mean or imply? This phrase “born again” has become so popularized through the years that its true basic meaning gets hazed over or swallowed up in grandiose and emotion packed programs and presentations. All Jesus is saying is being born again means a new chance – a new life – starting over.
That response served only to confuse Nicodemus, much as it confuses many even today. When Nicodemus sought clarification, Jesus obliged. The new birth is not a reversal of the original physical birth no matter how few or how many years ago it occurred. This is a starting point for a NEW life. By the grace of God, we can overcome the old natural sin-filled life and begin a new life in Christ. That new life is a spiritual life. There may be physical consequences to our old way of life but in our new life we are not enslaved by them. We journey on with a fresh new devoted to God life and rejoice in our overcoming, by His grace – a spiritual act.
What happens when we are baptized? We are cleansed in the water. We are symbolically dying and being buried in that water. When we arise from that water we are experiencing a NEW LIFE – we are born again in the Spirit and Grace of God.
Jesus refers to the Spirit as a blowing wind. It comes and goes but no one knows from where or to. That implies another mystery. Where does that Spirit come from and where does that Spirit go? Being that it is a gift from God, given in His own way and in His own time, we may have to seek a better answer in the hereafter. What is far more important for us to realize is that the wind Spirit cannot be manipulated. God’s Spirit is divine and independent of any earthly influence. Look at it this way: if you wanted to fly a kite and the wind wasn’t sufficient to lift it skyward, what would or could you do? If you run hard enough down the beach or across the meadow, there might be sufficient lift to get the kite airborne. Now the question becomes: how long could you run in order to keep that kite lifted up? We simply cannot manipulate the wind – Spirit.
It hasn’t been that long since we were talking about the rebellious Israelites being plagued by fiery serpents. That episode is found in Numbers 21:4-9. Jesus used the reading in speaking to Nicodemus because it was an Old Testament reading that devout Pharisees would be familiar. In that reading, Moses fashioned a brass serpent on a pole and held it high for those bitten by the deadly serpents. Those who looked up and saw the brass serpent on the pole were saved.
Jesus died on the cross and ascended to heaven. Just as the Israelites obediently looked up at that brass serpent to be saved, all of mankind has that same opportunity to be saved unto eternal life. We must look up obediently to our Sacrificed Lord and submit to Him. Just as that wind is a gift, so is our salvation a gift. We can no more manipulate our salvation than we can manipulate the comings and goings of the Spirit. A mystery is just that and there are answers to the mystery. However, magic is all about manipulation. When it comes to Scripture and our relationship with the Triune God, there is no place for manipulation.
We need only to acknowledge and accept that gift.
Let us pray -