We are on a night visit, and joining a man whose heart is beginning to have divided loyalties. He slips away, under cover of night, and knows exactly where to go to have a private conversation with a certain rabbi, away from the suspicious eyes of his fellow leaders.
I admire Nicodemus, and his earnest desire to understand. This evening, at great personal risk, he slips out from underneath what is expected of him as a ruler of God’s people, and he pursues what has been niggling at his consciousness…this Man…this Man is from God. Something is different about Him…No one can do what He does without being from God… He goes right to the Source. There is no postulating or philosophizing with a committee before he acts. He goes right to Jesus, acknowledging what they already know: “for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with them”. Then he listens. The interesting thing is, despite how enmeshed his life must be in the organization of faith, he’s not asking about rules or traditions or how to demonstrate his faith. Nicodemus draws near to the man, Jesus, makes a statement of confidence, and listens.
Whenever you watch Jesus, you see that he gives each individual exactly what their heart needs. Sometimes it’s a rebuke, sometimes it’s a reminder or refinement of understanding. Still other times it is compassion or a basic need, like food.
What Nicodemus needs is the simple truth. He has already acknowledged the connection Jesus has with God. What he needs to know is buried deep underneath the traditional rituals and teachings. It is covered by the cloak of people management. Written in the law and the prophets, he already possesses the truth, the Son of God just has to connect the dots for him.
Jesus cuts right to the chase: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus had better pay attention! This was his job–ruling the Jews and keeping them on track to claim the kingdom that is their inheritance.
What is Jesus’ message to Nicodemus? Start over. Begin at a new kind of beginning. Be born anew. From above. Of all the messages Jesus could have given Nicodemus, He chose to speak of a sacrificial love that disintegrates the walls of separation, and gathers all mankind to Him. He speaks of salvation and hope. He speaks of the character of man, and nails it exactly. Then he acknowledges what Nicodemus already knows: “That which is true comes to light so that it may be clearly seen that His deeds have been wrought in God.”
…Pursue understanding. Nicodemus keeps asking questions. Do I do the same? Throughout scripture, recorded in the annals of secular and religious history and written in the lives of fellow sojourners on this earth, is evidence that this Man is from God. Do I also go right to the Source, and pursue understanding? The Source. Not a book, THE book. Not a conversation with a friend, to THE Friend. Do I ask HIM to help me understand? There is much wisdom to be gained by reasoning God’s word together, and leaning on the knowledge of well-learned others that walk with God. Ultimately, though, do I go to Jesus Himself and ask for understanding?
…How to be with Jesus: Go to Him, open to hearing what He has to say. Lay down my preconceived notions. Ask Him questions. If I don’t ‘get it’, keep asking. Be relentless in my pursuit of understanding Jesus. Let Jesus connect the dots for me.
…Sometimes you’ve got to remove yourself from the religious structure in which you are imbedded and take a mini-retreat with the Savior so you can really hear the Truth of what He has to say.
…Don’t make things so complicated that others can’t see the basic simplicity of the gospel message (simple for us, so very hard for Him…) “For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life…”
“My son, if you receive my words
And treasure up my commandments with you,
Making your ear attentive to wisdom
And inclining your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for insight
And raise your voice for understanding,
If you seek it like silver
And search for it as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the LORD
And find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5
Today’s Mile Marker:
John 3:1-21 Read it like you have never read it before.
See you in Samaria on our next stop…Be blessed (you already are!).
All scriptures, unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version 1952/1971