While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, many believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs that he did. But Jesus didn’t trust himself to them because he knew all people. He didn’t need anyone to tell him about human nature, for he knew what human nature was.
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.”
Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?”
Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said, “How are these things possible?”
“Jesus answered, “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things? I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have [aiónios] life.
Picture a world enslaved in darkness, the sun burned out a long time ago. The people burdened with heavy chains as they go about their day, caught in a thick gunk of oppression oblivious to their plight. Under the cover of “politics” and “religion” and “society,” the elite continue to crush the oppressed. The taskmasters demanding more and more from the people while offering little - if any - relief from their sorrows.
Suddenly, out of the gloom, a Light appears. Shining bright and intense, it exposes the truth of the situation. At first, everyone cowers in awe at the Presence, not sure what to make of it. The leaders look on in horror as the people start moving toward the Light, like water in the sea moves toward the beach.
Ever increasing power and strength.
Each new wave getting bolder as it blasts the land. Until a huge tidal wave smashes the once controlled landscape.
The leaders have to come up with a plan to extinguish the Light so they can maintain their power over the people.
But some leaders are moved by the Light. The start to see the falseness in their own affairs.
In their own lives.
In their own hearts.
They remain cautious, hiding in the shadows, but yearning to be free themselves.
Light and darkness. A big theme in John’s telling of the Jesus story. It shouldn’t surprise us that Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the night. He’s curious about the enigma of Jesus and intrigued about what that means for himself. But he can’t afford to be seen. He can’t let the other leaders know what he’s doing. He isn’t quite ready to embrace the Light of Christ. So he sticks to what he knows. Darkness.
Jesus cuts through his flattery and gets right to the point. “Honestly? If someone isn’t born anew, it’s not possible to see the Realm of G_d.” People have to change their way of being before they can view G_d’s Realm. Just like in birth, people come into this world completely “new.” Fresh. The way they see and understand the world around them is by learning from others. They trust implicitly those teachers. That’s what Jesus is getting at.
We have gotten “salvation” wrong. It’s not about “turning from sin,” although it does entail that. It’s about giving up our current way of living, of being. Everything about the “old self” is wrapped up in a realm of oppression, strife, violence, hatred. Jesus is saying we have to start fresh. This isn’t about turning around. It’s about dying to a way of living that is opposed to the Light.
And we can’t handle that. Just like Nick, we stumble at the mere mention of this. “What? I’m a good person. I love my family. I don’t cheat on my taxes. I got to church and give my tithe. I even go to the homeless shelter now and again to serve meals there. You’re saying all of that must be scrapped? I have to start over?”
We have to move from our current way of being to The Way expressed by Jesus. While those things are wonderful, and bring about good things for others, it’s tainted by one thing.
We control those things. It’s up to us when we give and serve and love. Jesus is saying that we have to let all of that go. We have to be like newborn people. People who depend on their Parents to help them along. Just as each Mother teaches her child the lessons of life, so the Spirit of G_d leads us.
But what does that look like? How do we know we’re on the right path? How do we know we’re still walking in the Light when there is so much darkness still around us?
By looking at the sacrifice of Christ. If our way of being is not the way of sacrifice, then we are off the path. When we live like that, when we be that, then we will have the life of the coming age. Now. At this moment. We, too, will be Light in the darkness.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC