In the presence of the Son of Man, Nicodemus questions.
The tales and accounts of Jesus must have made their way back to Nicodemus. He is interested, curious. Maybe he chooses to visit Jesus at night because he was too busy during the day. Perhaps he didn’t want people to see. In the darkness, he makes his way to where Jesus was and says (in my words), “You’re doing miracles and such, so maybe you’re sent by God like you say. Maybe even God is with you.” That is the truth, as far as Nicodemus can see.
Jesus responds, “Yes, and no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and Spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”
Nicodemus was born of a pure Jewish lineage. His heritage was, no doubt, part of his importance. How could he be born again? How is this not good enough for God?
Jesus responds, “I’ve told you earthly things and you don’t understand them. How could you ever comprehend heavenly things?” Jesus doesn’t leave the conversation there. He tells Nicodemus of God’s love for the world and the plan for redemption. After doing so, he and the disciples leave.
We meet Nicodemus again in John 7. He hasn’t left the Pharisees; he’s still a powerful gure in their circles. But when Jesus is cruci ed and buried, Nicodemus brings spices and oils to embalm Jesus’ body. It is thought that he spent quite a bit of money to give Jesus a royal burial.
Nicodemus’ story ends in ambiguity. He acknowledges that Jesus is important, maybe even God-adjacent. He knows his teachings, but does he understand? He has seen his works, but does he believe?
I think many of us spend a lot of our life here in the wondering and the ambiguity. We know Jesus is God, but is he our God? How would Nicodemus’ story end if he heard and believed? How would ours?
- Can you relate to Nicodemus? Are there parts of your spiritual life that you keep in the darkness?
- What does it mean to you to be born again? Recount that story to your missional community.
- Jesus could have scolded Nicodemus for not understanding. Instead, he speaks tenderly and shares his plan for redemption. When has God spoken tenderly to you in the face of uncertainty or doubt?
- For Nicodemus, his stature came from his lineage and his job. Where do you find yourself seeking your own importance?
you reach out to us in mercy
even when we rebel against your holy call
and prefer to walk in disobedience
rather than in the way of your divine truth. soften our hearts with the warmth of your love, that we may know your Son alive within us, redeeming us and raising us up into
your eternal presence. Amen.
This week, forsake the things you think give you importance. Maybe that’s your appearance; limit your wardrobe to two out ts. Maybe it’s work; unplug from work when you get home at night.
This week, practice Lectio Divina on John 3:10-21. Read the passage through. Read it again slowly and meditate on a word that stands out to you. Then read it again and re ect on why that word would stand out to you. Then pray on whatever God reveals to you.
Is there some theological question you have? Look into taking a class like Veritas or auditing a class at Oblate School of Theology. Find a practical way to turn your questions into a wondrous faith.
In this story, Nicodemus has doubts and questions, none of which are uncommon to us. However, in his story, he never moves past that stage.
In his book, The Curious Christian, Barnabas Piper looks at doubt and questions as an opportunity for God to be magni ed in our lives. Subtitled “How Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life,” Barnabas Piper challenges us to move out of our questions and into adoration of a wondrous God.