Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 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.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Life is not what we calculate. Life is not what we figure out with our head. Life is not an equation to be solved. Life is what we discover.
We must live with this sense of discovery. It is exciting. It means there is still a lot we don’t know yet, waiting to be discovered. Once we think we know it all, this will all stop. Our life will become stagnant. We will shrink and die.
I realize that we stop discovering when we become too fixated on results. What we think something will be like. We become too fixed in our own thinking. If we think what we do won’t be worth our effort, we won’t try. If we think what we do won’t be good and perfect, we won’t do it at all. We won’t allow any room for discovery.
I watched a documentary on Netflix this week. It was about this famous jazz musician named Miles Davis. Miles Davis was known for his originality. He was one of a kind. He couldn’t be imitated. What made him particularly special was that he refused to think that he knew all there was to know about music. He lived with the attitude that there is always something new to learn. He said, “Fear no mistakes. There are none.” Every performance was an opportunity for discovery. He wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries and try new things. He even refused to keep his old albums at home.
In today’s passage, we see a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the ruling council. He was not only smart and well-educated, but he also held a high social position. He had everything one could wish for.
Yet he came to Jesus at night. What does that mean? He was drawn to Jesus. He didn’t want to be see by others and risk his reputation, so he decided to go at night.
Nicodemus was a man who thought he knew all there was to know. He was knowledgeable of the Torah. He thought he knew how to live a good and moral life. He thought as long as he did that, that was enough. Jesus then came and rocked his world completely. This was what Jesus said to Nicodemus—
Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.John 3:3
Born again?? This was hard for Nicodemus to understand. It is even hard for us to understand. But Jesus made it clear that this was what Nicodemus needed.
If we can’t be born again physically, what does it mean then? Start over. Be like a newborn. See everything like you are seeing them for the first time. Then you will discover what life is. That’s what Jesus is saying.
Being born again is being transformed in the way we see, think, and live our life. It is hard to let go of our old ways and habits. But it is only when we let go of our fixed ways that we begin to be led by God into a bigger world of discovery. The world of God’s wisdom (LOGOS). Jesus told Nicodemus—
You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”John 3:7, 8
We all need to be born again. We need to be freed from our small world of fears and worries. We need to enter into the bigger world of mystery and surprises. Our little wisdom makes us closed and narrow-minded. God’s wisdom expands our world and our thinking. God doesn’t reveal his wisdom to those who think they know it all. God reveals it to those who are humble and pure.
At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, becasue you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.Matthew 11:25
God wants us to live a full and wonderful life. God wants us to live an eternal life. Eternal life is not just a life that continues after we die. Eternal life also means the quality of life we live now. When we live each day by God’s Spirit, we live the eternal life. Eternal life is a life of never-ending discovery and growth. Today’s passage ends with a very famous verse—
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.John 3:16
This Lent, I encourage you to practice openness. Learn to let go of your own thoughts. Don’t dwell too much on them or get stuck in them. Learn to trust in God’s ways. Be open to surprises and unexpected discoveries. You will see better and greater things along the way. We have our long-awaited retreat next week. Come with an open mind.
Nicodemus experienced being born again because of Jesus. He saw and lived his life in a new way. He no longer went around hiding. He appears two more times in the Gospel of John. He fights for a fair hearing for Jesus. Even after Jesus’ death, he helps prepare for his burial. Nicodemus was not just one of the Pharisees. He was a different Pharisee. He lived an eternal life.
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