One of the many things I love about John’s Gospel is his long descriptions of one-on-one encounters with Christ. Public sermons and lessons are just as inspired, but they don’t offer as much an opportunity to have the give-and-take, question-and-answer format. Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the paralytic at the pool, and others are given space that they aren’t in the Synoptics.
There are at least two reasons submitted as to why Nicodemus came at night. One is that he wanted his visit to be a secret: As a member of the Sanhedrin, he couldn’t afford to be seen with this controversial teacher, much less one so hated by his peers. The other reason, quite reasonable, is that he wanted some intimate time with him, and wanted the opportunity to speak with him without all the crowds and distractions. Whatever the reason, the Savior received him gladly, just like he does all sincere seekers.
Another pattern which I see Jesus following here, which he did on other occasions, is to cut through all the smoke-and-mirrors of someone’s opening compliment to get to the heart of the issue. Sometimes this comes across as a complete non sequitur, since he was answering the questioner, not the question. Instead of exchanging compliments and other shop-talking, he got to the real need of Nicodemus, the real cry of his heart. I’ve always imagined Nicodemus as a good man, a religious man. He went to all the religious observances, paid his tithes, provided the required sacrifices, etc. But deep inside him, in his heart of hearts, he knew that there was something more, something he was missing.
Then he meets Jesus, and the Teacher supplies the missing piece of the puzzle: not a reformation, not religion, but rebirth. As is common in this Gospel, however, the listener hears something Jesus says and completely misunderstands it. What could this man be talking about? How can a man be born again? Could he go back into his mother’s womb?
Of course he misunderstood because he was only thinking in terms of physical birth. Everyone is born physically, but that’s not enough to get into God’s kingdom (which is another way of talking about salvation, about having a personal relationship with him). Notice the contrast: flesh gives birth to flesh, and the Spirit gives birth to spirit. We don’t need to be given a new set of rules to follow; we need a complete change in our nature, and we can’t accomplish it ourselves. The Spirit has to “give birth” to this new nature.
You might not know this, so here’s an interesting tidbit of information, and it gives insight into Jesus’ comparison to wind. In Greek there's a word pneuma, which can be translated as "breath," "wind," and "spirit." It’s the same in Hebrew as well: the word ruah is the same word for all three as well. This is why comparing the Spirit to the wind is especially appropriate.
So are you allowing the Spirit to “blow through” your heart and life as well? Maybe you are saved, but it’s been a while since you’ve let his life-giving Breath blow out all the deadness in your soul and bring new life to your walk with him. It all starts with surrender, letting him speak to you, and giving over to him all your preconceived notions of what he wants to do. Don’t let this opportunity--called today--pass you by.
Lord Jesus, I do know you, but I let my heart get dusty and moldy. I desperately need your Spirit to blow through and sweep out the old and sweep in the new. Please.
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