Disciple of the Night
Nicodemus was a deeply religious man and a high ranking Pharisee of the Sanhedrin. He was a searching soul, always in pursuit of the truth. After witnessing what Jesus did in the Temple, he must know more about this brave young man who acted like the Messiah.
On a wild gusty spring night he quietly moved through the streets of Jerusalem, making his way to the home of Zebedee after inquiring where the young Rabbi was staying during the Passover. Too brave for cowardice and too hesitant for bravery, he sought the cover of darkness and came to Jesus this night for an interview at an hour when no one would see him. Slowly he climbed the outside stairs that led to the upper room. There in the chamber on the roof stood the heavenly guest silhouetted against the lamp, still busy with thoughts and words. Jesus turned around and smiled as Nicodemus entered. Under the stars, with the sleeping city spread out below them, they talked privately, with only the wind to hear their words and John in the shadows to record them.
Nicodemus sat down at once and said, Rabbi, we know you have come to us as a teacher from God; for no man can constantly perform the miracles you do unless God is with him. He thought himself as quite condescending to address the young man from Galilee as Rabbi, which was indeed high praise.
Jesus was not impressed by his religious status or flattering words, but saw a glimpse of belief behind them and responded with this profound statement, In all truth, I tell you that unless a person is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.
Nicodemus thought he already belonged to the Kingdom of God, but now he was told it cant be seen without being born from above. The Greek word Christ used has two meanings: born afresh or again, or from above. This was a test for the Pharisee. Depending on his spiritual understanding he would select one meaning or the other. But he thought only in natural terms and interpreted it as a physical rebirth.
How is it possible, asked Nicodemus, for a man to be born when he is already an adult? Can he enter into his mothers womb and be born a second time? From a physical point of view that was out of the question, so what did Jesus mean?
The Savior was describing a new birth of the Spirit. In very truth I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Natural birth can only produce things of nature. A spiritual birth is required to produce anything of the Spirit. You should not be surprised at my telling you that you need to be born from above. He told the teacher of the Law his religion was leading him farther and farther away from the truth. To enter the kingdom meant the double baptismal birth of what Johns baptism meant (repentance), and what Christs baptism is (new birth from above). Then Nicodemus would be able to see God.
To make it very clear that this miracle of the Spirit is something which depended altogether upon the supernatural power of God; that it cannot be witnessed nor comprehended by humans, Jesus gave this allegory, Consider the wind. It blows as it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Just then a gust of wind blew some leaves, and what Nicodemus thought was something white and transparent that looked like a dove, that passed in front of him and vanished. As the wind is beyond understanding, birth of the Spirit is beyond understanding. He cannot comprehend how God brought it into being, he does not know where God will take it, or what God will do with it. He needs only to believe the Heavenly Fathers word that its there.
The Pharisee cried out, How is this possible?
You, a respected teacher, are ignorant of these things? asked Christ. He sadly told him, If I speak plainly of things which occur on earth before your eyes, and you cannot accept them by faith, how would you ever believe if I were to speak of heavens mysteries which take place in the spirit?
Jesus got up and looked down at the sleeping city below and thought of the thousands of men and women, suffering and sick with sin, whom he had come to save. As his heart ached over them, he remembered the children of Israel who had been sick and dying in the wilderness. Moses had made a brazen serpent and lifted it up on a pole, and they who had looked at it lived. It was a picture of his own death on the cross.
He reminded Nicodemus of that story, Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up in order that everyone who has faith in him may have eternal life.
Then he spoke the most glorious words that have ever been spoken in the history of the world, Gods love for people was so great he sent his uniquely begotten Son; that everyone who puts his trust in him might not perish, but have eternal life. So consuming is his love that no price is too great for recovering his beloved. He will bear anything: humiliation, rejectioneven deathto redeem them.
Jesus looked back toward the festive lamp, The light has come into the world. Those who live by the truth come to the light so that it may be clearly seen that God is in all they do.
To Nicodemus, it seemed to be burning even more brightly and began to pierce his soul. He realized he must abandon his trust in Jewish ceremonial righteousness and place his faith in Christ to be born from above and enter the Kingdom of God. The Savior almost convinced him there; but he backed off into the darkness. On his way home he turned around for a last look at the upper chamber with the glowing lamp and thought about all the Rabbi had said. Could it possibly be true? Was he really the Anointed One?