John 9:1–41 (NRSV)
A Man Born Blind Receives Sight
9 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
The story of the blind man from birth I find to be one of the greatest miracles of scripture. I think this because according to John, the blind man is just being himself. He is not crying out for healing, he is not making himself a nuisance to society, he is just being himself content with who he is. Of course, he has not known any other life, he is not crying out to be healed because he would not know what sight would be like in the first place.
To get an accurate picture of what is going on we need to know the scenery. In the seventh chapter of John, Jesus goes to Jerusalem to attend the festival of Booths. This is one of the three major feasts of the Hebrew calendar. The one that is celebrated at the closing of the harvest. Our thanksgiving is the equivalent of this festival, but our thanksgiving celebrations pale in comparison to the Jewish feast. We celebrate for one day, well not even a full day more like one meal. The first century Jewish community would celebrate for an entire week. They would all gather in Jerusalem and would build temporary dwellings and basically camp out for a week. While they were living out in the elements with one another they would share whatever they had with whoever came to their dwelling. This festival was to celebrate two things. The first is the annual thanksgiving for the harvest and blessings that God have provided to them along the course of the year. The second was to remember that God is the provider of all things, just as God provided for their ancestors while they wondered in the wilderness with Moses.
From the seventh chapter on through the passage we read today, Jesus is interacting with the people of Jerusalem during this seven-day feast. We may miss the significance of this because when we look at the feast of Booths many of us think of thanksgiving, but there is much more going on. During the festival, there are some important ceremonies occurring at the temple. One of the most important is the drawing of the water in a golden jug from the blessed spring and then pour the contents onto the altar. This ceremony was there to remind the people of the dedication of the temple to God, as well as reminding them that it is God who provides the rains for their harvest. The spring that the water was drawn from is the very spring from which an aqueduct was built to fill the pool of Siloam. This spring was the spring used to bless David, and it was the spring that provided the water that was mixed with the ashes of the Red Heifer to bless the temple. It is seen as the water of life.
So, in the seventh chapter of John, Jesus is attending the celebration, and on the last day of the celebration he begins to interact with the religious leaders, preaching about the water of life. That he is the one that will take away the sins of the world. And to close the discussion he said that “Before Abraham was, I Am.” At that point, Jesus announced before all of Jerusalem that he is equal to God. The religious leaders were quick to judge that statement and were about to throw him out of the temple, but he left freely. When he was done talking to the religious leaders Jesus and the disciples leave that area and they go to where the common people are at. The disciples were still excited by the debate and asked Jesus about the man born blind.
The common understanding of disability at that time was that any infirmity was a sign of the displeasure of God. So, for someone to have been born blind either the parents or the infant would have had to sinned greatly for such a devastating disability. I tell you all the back ground because this is the same day, the last day of the feast of Booths, the same day where Jesus claims to be God and the one who will take away the sins of the world. The day when the priest remove water from the pool of Siloam to bless the altar that was purified with the same water and the ashes of a red heifer to dedicate it to God for the sacrifices that would be made to remove the sins from the people of God. A man that is born blind is a man that has no hope of redemption. He cannot enter the temple proper to offer sacrifices because he is unclean, his sin has rendered him an outcast and he must be healed before he can offer sacrifices. But his sin will remain because there is no way for him to remove the stain of the sin because he cannot enter to offer sacrifices. So according to the teaching of the religious leaders of that day this man is a condemned man for life, one without hope.
Jesus tells his disciples that this man was born blind not because of sin but to reveal God’s work. The man is just standing there not engaging the people simply listening. Jesus then spits on the ground makes mud, spreads the mud on the guy’s face, and tells the man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man goes and does this, partly because Jesus commanded him too, and I am sure there is a small part of him that wants to wash because some random guy just spread mud made from spit on his face and that is kind of gross even if it is from the Messiah. As the water drips from the man’s face something amazing happens, he can see.
At that moment, this man was no longer an outcast of society but he would be considered clean according to the law. Regarding the contemporary teachings, Jesus literally removed all signs of sin from this man’s life and made him acceptable in the eyes of God. Jesus gave this man life, both in society and spiritual life. The man immediately moves into the crowds of worshipers to celebrate and people start to talk. The talking attracts the attention of the religious leaders, who then bring the man in to interrogate him.
Why do they spend so much time talking to this one man? Why do they bring in his parents to question them? And why do they bring this man in a second time to question him? It all goes back to the claims that Jesus made that very day. The claim that he was the water of life, that he would take away the sins of the world, and that He was God. Right before their eyes they had proof that the words of Jesus were true. But truth can be an awkward thing to swallow. For them to accept this man’s testimony they would have to adjust their teaching in some way. The first being that disability is a direct result of sin. If this man was born blind, he was a grave sinner. For that infirmity to be removed then the penalty of that sin would have to be removed. How did that happen? From the testimony, the only one that encountered the man was someone named Jesus. Right there this man was causing them to evaluate everything they thought they knew.
Religious leaders do not like to be questioned. I am just as guilty as the next one. Just yesterday I was not a prime example of one carrying the name of Christ when someone questioned something I did. I did not do anything wrong, but my attitude was not filled with grace. I like these Pharisees looked at the one before me and responded according to the teachings I ascribed to instead of the revealed Spirit of God before my eyes. They were faced with a decision that they did not want to make. They would have to accept the teachings of Jesus or they would have to reject them. Yet there was this man standing before them as proof that Jesus had power, so what would they do with that? They cast him out. They refused to adjust their thinking based on the new evidence presented. They held fast to traditions and doctrine instead of listening to the living spirit of God. They chose death over life. They chose blindness over sight.
God works all around us yet often we cannot see it. Often, we are too caught up in our own problems to see God working. Sometimes we think everything is wrong in the world and we complain that mud just got smeared on our faces. But what are we doing? Do we just stay where we are covered in mud or do we wash our faces and stand tall before those around us? At times, we might see something occurring that we cannot really explain, but we know it is not how we would do it so we complain and protest. Could it be that maybe God is working things out around us and we just need to step back and look at things from a different perspective so we can see?
This former blind man became the very first person to worship Jesus. He worshiped Him because he had no other place to go. He was born an outcast and when he was healed he was cast out. But Jesus accepted him for who he was. The man was blind and Jesus loved him, Jesus gave him a gift of grace and healing even though the man did not know how to ask for it. And before his face was completely dry the religious leaders were trying to control his behavior and his thinking. They rejected him, yet Jesus accepted him. I cringe when I read this because I can see myself in nearly everyone in this story. But I want to believe and worship as freely as this once blind man. I want to celebrate the lives changed before my eyes and not worry about what others might think. I want to see though often I settle for blindness.
We cannot be true worshippers of God, worshippers in sprit and truth if we are spiritually blind. We cannot be true worshippers if we are unwilling to embrace the Spirit working in and around us breathing life in to us. We cannot be true worshiper if we do not let the waters of life saturate our souls and wash our mud covered faces clean. I pray that we will be people that are willing to see. And when we begin to see then we will fully embrace the life of Christ; loving God, embracing the Holy spirit and living the love of Christ with other.
John 4:5–42 (NRSV)
5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan
woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
Often there is so much to speak and consider in the narratives of scripture. This particular passage is just one sort of passage. There are several parts to consider: we could speak about the town of Sychar, the uniqueness of Jesus’ conversation with a Sarmatian, the uniqueness that Jesus is speaking to a woman, the woman’s background, water, food, the confusion of the disciples, the differences between Samaria and Judah and their places of worship. I could continue the list because there is just so much in this passage if you wanted to look under the surface. And then most of us have heard this story and various interpretations of its meaning several times over the course of our Journey with Christ. It is a common story, it might even be one of our favorite narratives of Jesus’ ministry because it is just unique, it is out of the norm of his usual places of teaching. It is personal and one of the few times we see Jesus in a state where both his divine and human natures are clearly seen at once.
For us to really get a grasp for this story it is important to consider the timeline and terrain for a moment. The gospel of John basically begins just before Jesus is baptized, well let me correct myself it begins at the beginning of time, but then rushes forward to John in the wilderness crying out to the people to repent. John is out there preaching and then he sees Jesus, and identifies him as being the lamb of God. A couple of John’s disciples follow Jesus home and begin to listen to the teachings. They each get their closest friends and the group of disciples grow. This group of disciples go with Jesus to a wedding. This wedding is where Jesus’ first sign takes place, the one where he has servants fill six jugs full of water and when they dipped the water out and served it to the host, it had become wine. These jugs each held around thirty gallons, so Jesus’ first miracle was to produce one hundred eighty gallons of wine. I mentioned over the summer that most weddings even in ancient times were during the season of Pentecost approximately June so this first gathering was most likely during the summer. It is mentioned that Jesus then spends a few days around the sea teaching.
The next time we meet him, is when he is in Jerusalem during the Passover. John says that during this first Passover Jesus caused quite a scene driving out the venders and money changers, and stays around Jerusalem teaching and ministering to the needs of the people. It was during this first year of Jesus’ ministry around Passover that the Pharisee Nicodemus visited with Jesus at night. Nicodemus was not the only one that saw Jesus as being a formative teacher. Jesus then goes to the Jordan and joins with John in his ministry. John was still teaching and baptizing, but the religious leaders were noticing that many more were coming to the gathering around Jesus to listen and to be baptized by his disciples. The people ask John about this, and John responds that He must decrease so that Jesus can increase.
Jesus was with John approximately thirty miles north of the Dead Sea, and because all the religious leaders were beginning to compare him to John and drawing attention to the fact that more were being baptized by Jesus’ followers than John’s, Jesus decided he would leave the Jordan and go to Galilee. The interesting thing is scripture says that Jesus had to go through Samaria to get to Galilee. Jesus was with John in Salim by the Jordan 30 miles north of the Dead Sea. The city of Sychar is south west of where Jesus is, and he was planning on going North west. I find this curious, either Jesus was traveling all along the Jordan during this time he spent with John, or the reasons Jesus had to go there Samaria were more than just convenience. But it says that Jesus also left Judah to head to Galilee so I am guessing that maybe John’s ministry was not bound to one location along the Jordan.
What we do know is that Jesus went to Sychar. This place is approximately the halfway point of this journey. And near this city is a mountain called Mount Gerizim. This mountain is for the Samaritans the equivalent of the mountain the temple was built upon. They built a temple on this mountain, and made pilgrimages to this place for the various religious feasts. Both the temple on this mountain and in Jerusalem were built approximately during the same period, and both were desecrated by the Greeks. But during the quest for independence during the Maccabean Revolt the Jews were the ones that destroyed the temple on mount Gerizim while they purified the one in Jerusalem.
I mentioned that this mountain was approximately halfway between Jerusalem and Galilee, it is also approximately half way between Jerusalem and Mount Megiddo. I do not really know if that means anything but there it is. Halfway between the city of God and the battle of the end.
So, Jesus is walking and is tired so he sits to rest. He is also thirsty. If the timeline is accurate He would be traveling sometime after Passover, and leading up to Pentecost, because he will again go to Jerusalem for a feast. So later in the spring. It was hot, humid and Jesus was thirsty. He sent the disciple on into town, and He just sat there. As he waited a woman came from the city to draw water, so he asks her for a drink.
I mention the confusing geography and all because some believe that the reason Jesus had to go to Samaria had less to do with geography and more to do with theology. Jesus went to this city halfway between Galilee and Jerusalem to unite the two temples. He asks for water, and offers living water. Just like with Nicodemus Jesus uses words that have double meanings. Living water could be flowing water, or it could mean water that gives life. Nicodemus could not understand the double meaning of being born from above or again, and this woman could not grasp the meaning of flowing water or water that gives life. She imagines that somehow Jesus will come up with some sort of aqueduct that would carry the water down to the town. But what Jesus is speaking of is that He would give the spirit of God to bubble up within a person’s soul to give life.
Either way it amazes the woman and she asks for the water, and Jesus said go get your husband. At this point, Jesus is not judging the woman. There is not one judgmental statement out of his mouth only the voice of truth. The woman see it for what it is, saying clearly that he is a prophet. She then asks the prophet, where do we worship here or Jerusalem?
I want us to stop there and consider this for a moment. Every statement out of this woman’s mouth has been about the things that divide and out of Jesus’ things that unite. Jew and Samaritan, Male and female, Jerusalem or Gerizim. If you knew who it was that was talking, He would give you living water. Water that brings life, the spirit that brings new life and starts a rebirth. Jesus travels around the countryside teaching and serving and as he goes people join him along the journey. He encourages the ministry of John by joining him by the Jordan and when division begins to threaten the unity of the message, Jesus removes the disunity by going to a different area. He says that it will be Galilee but he must go there by way of Samaria. Divisions and unity, meeting people where they are and encouraging them to be who they are created to be. Honoring that of God in them and encouraging them to see themselves in the proper light.
Jesus told the woman that the hour is coming and is now here where it will not matter if you worship on this mountain or that one, because the only place to worship is in spirit and in truth. Consider that for a moment, true worshipers will worship in breath, in the wind. But it goes even deeper, there is a shared breath uniting us together under the same spirit all breathing and experiencing the same wind together in a harmonious unity. All of that is wrapped up in this one word spirit. True worshipers worship with our every breath, every word, in relationship. It has been said by some that the name of God is holy and unable to be pronounced because the sounds involved are the sounds of breathing. Take a deep breath in and listen, let it out what do you hear? You hear spirit. Everyone breaths and that breath is a gift from God blown into the nostrils of our first parents which continues to speak the name of God through the course of every moment of every day of every living being that has, is, and ever will exist. True worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth. Truth is also a word that speaks at many levels. It speaks of reality, facts, faith, and security. It speaks of certainty and sincerity. Every breath is shared. It leaves our body and will eventually be used by another in a cycle of life. What are we using our breath for?
Are we using the breath of life graciously give to us by God to speak words of truth and hope, or are we using them to speak words of division? When we take a breath, are we breathing the name of God as a blessing or a curse, bringing life or death, hope or despair. The woman at the well excitedly ran into town and brought others back to see Jesus, and they believed not because she said it but they experienced it for themselves. When people are around you, are we breathing spirit and truth?
Jesus walked throughout the land to unite Jews and Samaritans in spirit and truth, but he also united Jew and gentile as we will see later in John’s gospel. As we approach the season of Easter, the season that marks the beginning of spring and the renewing of and resurrection of life let us walk with Jesus. Let us walk with him following his footsteps and breathing his air, listening to his teachings as we sit at his feet. Let us see in ourselves where we promote division and repent. Let us see in ourselves through the guidance of Christ where we promote unity and celebrate. And let us become true worshipers breathing the very name of God in praise with every breath we take.
John 3:1–17 (NRSV)
Nicodemus Visits Jesus
3 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
This week was one of those weeks where I enjoyed the study of this passage a bit too much. As if that could be a thing. I just continued to read and study, several nights I would wake up realizing that I had fallen asleep while studying and ended up dreaming about the conversation portrayed in the verses.
Probably the most invigorating form of prayer that I have ever engaged in is when you use your imagination to put yourself into the story and consider the words from that perspective. So, in this case, imagine you were Nicodemus you are walking quickly under the cover of the night to the dwelling of a rabbi. Listen to the sounds of the night, smell the night air. If you have been to Israel, you might be able to imagine the various aromas drifting by from the plants and cook fires. You are walking with a mission. You are a leader among the Hebrew people, you are a Pharisee a rabbi in your own right yet the questions you are being asked have been spurned by the teachings of another and you cannot quite explain or find the answers. So, you walk, you are not like the others in you rank, you are not offended by the teachings of this rabbi Jesus, instead are caught between wanting to believe the signs you have seen and the history of you learning. The wind blows a bit while you walk it tickles the hair on the back of your neck and you are filled with anxious energy; you consider what people will think if they knew you were visiting the teacher, will you believe what he said, will you end up arguing, or will you leave empty? I want you to really imagine this walk. Listen to the crunching steps you are taking. Hear the breaths entering and leaving your body as you exert the energy. Why are you walking at night?
The gospel of John is my favorite of the gospels. The writing style speaks to in a way that the others neglect. I love the gospels but this one the one written by the disciple Jesus loved, is like the soul of the gospels. This is the gospel that God uses to woo me.
We meet Nicodemus walking at night. This image is one that highlights the ignorance of Nicodemus more than just telling us the time of day that he came to visit. The ancient days light was seen to represent the presence of God, or at least the wisdom of God. Aspects of this continues even to our contemporary time, light is equal to wisdom or knowledge. The image of Nicodemus walking at night is saying that he is walking without wisdom, even though he is a leader of the people.
This should cause us all to pause for a moment. If a great religious leader of the first century Jewish people is walking in ignorance, though is seen by mankind as being one possessing wisdom and honor what hope do we have.
Nicodemus comes to the dwelling and the conversations ensues. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” There is something very important to this question, first Nicodemus is granting Jesus the title of Rabbi. Which means teacher. This title was only used to refer to the educated ones. Jesus was not educated in the traditional forms so he should not have accepted the title. Secondly, Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus is from God. He knows and accepts that Jesus is teaching truth and that He comes from God, yet Nicodemus comes to Jesus in darkness in ignorance. He has witnessed the various miracles yet he walks in the darkness.
Jesus then abruptly goes into his teaching mode and his answer to this leader seems a bit out of place. “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” The concept surrounding the word we translate “Born” is a loaded word. Of course, it can mean to begot or to bear a child, but it is deeper. The world born was also a religious concept. It is a word that also references the beginning of one’s religious conversion. We are born into faith so to speak. This concept was used in the teachings of the contemporary rabbis. Yet this word confused Nicodemus. The second part of this being born from above or again is what really baffles him.
The idea of being born from above, or again, could mean becoming a disciple of God. It is a concept of taking on a new life and lifestyle. Yet Nicodemus take an alternative interpretation, why? He is a teacher of the people, an important leader within the Jewish community. He is seen by most as being wise, and by nearly everyone as being righteous. Jesus is telling him that all that he is basing his life on is not the kingdom of God but a construct of humanity. No wonder it seems that this conversation is bazar.
Each of us have preconceived ideas about reality. We consider certain ideas as being true and others as being false. We hold tight to the ideas we support and are offended whenever our preferred point of view is challenged. In a sense, Nicodemus, cannot imagine that he could be counted as one needing a new lifestyle, or having a lack of knowledge. So immediately he gravitates to the alterative interpretation of the words born again instead of hearing it as being brought into the wisdom from above. We often catch ourselves in this trap too. Many of us have been associated with this Meeting for a great amount of time, and if not with this meeting we have been associated with Christian concepts for most of our lives. We feel confident in our faith so if a teacher were to tell us that we need to convert we become defensive. Our ways are right. That is it.
Jesus then takes a different approach. He explains discipleship to this leader of men. Flesh gives birth to flesh, spirit gives birth to spirit. We can rely on our own flesh or we can follow the spirit of God to something greater. We cannot get to the kingdom of God through our own acts. That would be something birthed out of our flesh. The only way to enter the kingdom is to listen to the wind.
The Spirit of God is described like a wind. The wind blows from a place beyond our understanding and carries us somewhere else. Jesus says that we cannot know where the wind comes from or where it is going. This means that to enter the kingdom of God we need to learn how to pursue the wind. Even during the days of Jesus, mankind could use the wind to get from one place to another. They observed the force within and developed sails to harness that power. But what is the origin of the wind? Where will the wind stop? Science can tell us much about wind today, but even today we can only give predictions about the wind. The same is with the spirit of God. We can observe, we can study, but wind is elusive. It may or may not start how we predicted, and we just as soon as it is built it can stop.
Jesus speaks of wind, the Irish monk explained it as chasing a wild goose. To chase this goose, we first observe. This is difficult, to even attempt to chase after this elusive personality we must learn to listen. Anything we do without listening to the spirit is something derived from the kingdoms of mankind. Jesus instead encourages us to trust him not ourselves, follow the wind and let it take you where it is going.
As we look at the world around us it seems as if much is lost and the more we try to improve our conditions it seems like the opposite occurs. So, we try harder, we push more, and we save, we everything we can only to have it blow away. We lose because we are living under the influence of mankind, not in the lifestyle of God. We like Nicodemus walk not in the light but in the darkness. We want to believe because we have seen some signs, yet we do not trust. We do not trust that the God who came down to live among us cares enough about us. We do not trust because all to many of us have been injured in some way. We continue to push forward, we look through scriptures trying to find the right words to justify our actions and we walk in the darkness instead of the light. We trust our own wisdom because we know it. Yet God is say Return, repent come back to me, but we do not really like that idea.
To entrust our lives fully to God, to be born from above we like a child born to parents must entrust their lives to survive. So many people turn from God because of this one thing. We do not trust that God can do what he claims. But God loves the world so much that he sent his son not to condemn the world but to save it (redeem it) We condemn, we judge, we want to make sure everyone adheres to our concept of God, and when we do that with they do not see Christ but an expression of worldly wisdom so they leave. But what if we lived a lifestyle of Christ in all we do, what if we entrusted our lives to the father who loves us enough to get down into the dirt with us and he gently encourages us to take another step. We must be born again. We must be born from above, we must take on the lifestyle of Christ and live it out, because our world needs us to. Let us become a people who does not walk in the darkness but in the light. Let us become people who are born or given new life and new hope from above.