Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. ” John 3:1-3.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Nicodemus, but I’d like us to take a closer look at it today. To begin with, Nick was a big shot in Jewish religious circles, a member of the ruling council no less. But, it appears to me that he had questions, maybe even doubts about his faith. A guy like that was looked up to as a pillar of knowledge, very religious, and a sure bet to receive a good report from God on the day of judgment. So, why was he going to see this rebel, Jesus? It goes on to say he went at night, under the cloak of darkness so he could sneak in without his temple cohorts seeing him. After all, what would people think if they saw a man like that seeking answers from the likes of Jesus. Something very powerful, his need to go beyond his secure, traditional “faith”, drew him. Here was a man, a recipient of the ancient faith, a devout follower, one who strictly adhered to the Law, and we see him inquiring of Jesus. What more could he possibly want to know? Wasn’t he at the top of the religious heap? Wasn’t his inherited faith sufficient?
I’m no scribe, but I understand where Nick was coming from. As a child, my parents handed me a nicely wrapped faith tradition, as well. It was fine, I never really questioned it, but I never really unpacked it either. As I got older, it was relegated to a shelf in the back of my closet. I’d been baptized as a child, and participated in all the required rituals, so I figured I had all the God I needed. I never stopped believing there was a God, but I’d never actually met Him personally, either. I was merely hanging on to a flimsy story my parents had passed along, and claiming it as faith.
Years later, not unlike Nicodemus, I started hearing things about this Jesus, things that pulled me in to Him. As I questioned, studied and learned I realized that he could never be contained in that dusty box in the closet. Nick saw what he was doing, and so did I, and then he spoke those words about being “born again”. What could that mean? I had already been born, physically. I had done all the religious stuff, what did he want me to know? Nick was far more savvy of religious things than I was, but Jesus told him this: “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”…“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? “
Spirit, there’s the operative word. My “faith” had only been born of flesh, I’d never entered into the realm of the Spirit, and now I was ready to truly know him, to be born again. We don’t know what happened to Nicodemus, did this meeting change him? I can only tell you that it changed me, and continues to do so daily. Ask yourself, where is my faith? Is it in a pretty box somewhere, or is it being used and developed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit? Don’t be tempted into thinking that any faith, no matter how weak or dusty is sufficient or pleasing to God. Seek him out, any time of day or night, then claim and unpack this unbelievable gift with him, and be born again! “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” 2 Corinthians 9:15