(for Trinity Sunday, May 31, 2015)
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 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.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ 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?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” 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.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
‘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. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
‘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.
‘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. (John 3:1-17, NRSV).
Nicodemus knows two things: Jesus’ signs indicate his heavenly connection and being seen with him will court controversy.
So with the protection of night he seeks the audience of the most controversial religious figure of his time: Jesus. What will he say? Will he whisper? Will he speak to Jesus as an equal? Will he come as learner or dictator?
Nicodemus initiates and opens the conversation. It looks somewhat like a balancing act: respectfully call him teacher; acknowledge the miracles; recognise the connection with God.
From here, however, Nicodemus seems to lose control of the conversation: ‘Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’’
It is a compliment. The vulnerable introductory line of this national leader convinces Jesus that this is one who ‘can see’. It may not yet be crystal-clear but it is enough to get Nicodemus to make this journey. He has, miraculously, seen heaven’s work.
And he wants to see more.
But first, Jesus wants him to recognise his open eyes as the very gift of heaven.
Nicodemus stumbles over the claim to be ‘born from above’. After all this heavenly thinking he is now stuck with the earthly image. H is hearing ‘born from above’ as the alternative: ‘born again’.
And so he asks about ‘mothers’ and ‘wombs’. Jesus’ refers to ‘water’ and ‘spirit’. When will they hit the same page?
After all, Jesus is still interpreting the experience of Nicodemus. The spirit-wind blew him here. Nicodemus cannot explain it – yet tonight he found himself sneeking out to converse with the one he considers heaven-sent. He is here at the bidding of God’s wind!
Of course, this does not automatically translate into understanding. Yet Jesus is clearly willing to give Nicodemus a go. After urging him to listen on both earthly and heavenly matters, Jesus entrusts this night-seeker with his plan: he did descend from heaven; he will be lifted up; trust will lead to life.
And all this the action of a loving, non-condemning, life-giving God.
Nicodemus, God’s Spirit led you here tonight. Allow the truths you discover to sink in deeply!
Can’t you see all heaven – Father, Son, Spirit – wooing you?