“Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night…” (John 3:1-2a)
I wonder what Nicodemus was thinking about when he went home from his experience with Jesus. It must have seemed to him like he and Jesus were speaking two different languages. Jesus spoke about Spirit, wind, being born from above, and water, but Nicodemus had no idea what he was talking about.
Things got lost in translation. Nicodemus heard Jesus talking about birth and thought he meant having to be physically born again. Nicodemus was befuddled by Jesus’ words and let him know. “How can this be?” he asks Jesus, his last words in this scene as Jesus seems to shift this conversation into “sermon” mode.
We can imagine the words spinning in his head: “What is this guy talking about? He is making no sense.”
Do you think as Nicodemus wandered the darkened streets of a night-time Jerusalem he understood Jesus’ was talking about himself as when he uttered the words “Son of God?”
Do you think Jesus got through to Nic as he spoke about being “lifted up” on the Cross, through the Resurrection, and into the Ascension (as for John this is one long salvific event and not three)?
Do you think he grasped the reconciling work of Christ in trying to “save the world?”
We don’t really know Nicodemus reaction. We don’t know if everything clicked in his mind. We don’t know if he got it.
But what we do know is that if after experiencing Jesus that night Nicodemus was saved, was born from above, from the heavenly realm, born in the Spirit as it were, if this happened, there was nothing he did to receive it. There was nothing he did do understand. He couldn’t get it. His questions were clear to his boneheadedness. If he was born from above, it was a miracle.
Scott Hosee puts it this way, “It [spiritual rebirth] requires a person to come to see the world in the upside-down terms Jesus always used when he talked about his kingdom. A person had to be re-born to the idea that humility and kindness are far more valuable than pride and brazen efforts to promote oneself, that the meek and lowly and quiet of the earth are of far more value than the bold and the lofty and the noisy of the earth” (link).
Every time one’s world is turned upside down by the Spirit and she is able to see the world as Christ does, it is indeed a miracle. It is a miracle that saves us from ourselves. Thanks be to God.