Originally posted on Kennahartian.com
The sky was full of miniscule diamonds swirling in their respective galaxies. They shone above Nicodemus as he hurried down from his palace to where Jesus was staying. A passage from the Psalms came to the forefront of his conflicted mind: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens… When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (English Standard Version, Psalm 8:1-4). Nicodemus carefully navigated his way around the trash in the middle of the street, always on the alert lest he touch it and be considered “unclean.” For reasons unbeknownst to him, these verses from the eighth Psalm made him think of Jesus, which in turn caused him to think of what had happened at the temple earlier. Jesus had entered the courtyard, proclaimed that the temple was His Father’s house, and drove out all of the moneychangers sitting there. He’d poured out their coins and overturned tables. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a rabbi, a ruler of the Jews, and he still couldn’t understand Jesus. He did not like it.
A sharp wind stung Nicodemus’ leathered face like thorns, almost blowing back his head covering. He tightly caught it to his head, grateful that his beard, at least, was attached to his face. It offered extra warmth and protection, and he didn’t have to worry about it flying off. Nicodemus picked up his pace, careful not to run as the inn came into view. He was surprised to see Jesus standing next to a lit fire, Almost as though he knew I were coming, he thought. As Nicodemus came closer to Jesus, Christ looked at him. Suddenly, unsure of what to say, Nicodemus struggled to put his thoughts into words.
“Rabbi,” he began hesitantly, “We know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2b). Realizing this wasn’t a question, Nicodemus opened his mouth and then closed it again, uncertain of what he was trying to ask.
But God knows hearts, and he knew Nicodemus’. Jesus answered the unspoken question, the one that haunted Nicodemus’ every thought, desire and word.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Nicodemus’ head bowed and his shoulders slumped as his years rapidly became heavy upon him. Surely this statement must have an explanation! For if the truth is as I am hearing, all I have done in my life is for naught. I will never see the kingdom of God.
“How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born” (John 3:4)? Nicodemus’ voice shook with years of exhaustion.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8). Nicodemus struggled to understand the meaning of the words Jesus spoke. I’m not supposed to follow the law like I’ve been doing? But then how am I to be saved? Only God can accomplish what this man is saying. I’ve followed the law to the letter as perfectly as humanly possible. What He’s saying makes sense, but it’s not possible!
“How can these things be” (John 3:9)?
Jesus knew the struggle going on in the old rabbi’s mind just as He knows what is going on in ours. He knows that until God opens our eyes, we will never understand the gospel. Christ placed his hand on Nicodemus’ shoulder and looked into Nicodemus’ eyes with compassion, relaying the truths He had come to fulfill.
“Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And 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, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (3:10-21).As if someone secretly lit a lamp whilst in a dark cave, Jesus’ words broke through a barrier in Nicodemus’ mind. Decades of study became clear. Nicodemus could be free! The gift was free! Salvation was sure! He felt like rejoicing! Running or dancing even! As Nicodemus turned to go, he glanced back at Jesus (who was already going back inside) and realized what this meant for Him. Suddenly, he saw Jesus in a new light. Slowly, Nicodemus went up to his palace, no longer caring about the mud.