John 3:1 – 8
Nicodemus was a closet disciple. He seeks Jesus out, though surreptitiously in the dead of the night. Why? Nicodemus is a “leader of the Jews”, “a teacher of Israel” (3:10), and a member of the religious party most opposed to the teaching of Jesus. In fact, in John 12, the summary statement says that it was Nicodemus’ own group, the Pharisees, which intimidated the authorities against confessing Jesus.
Jesus does not directly answer Nicodemus’ question. Instead He engages him in a seemingly unrelated topic of conversation. Jesus says that rebirth is necessary to enter the kingdom of God. Of course, Nicodemus the Pharisee has already found religion, so he thinks that Jesus must be referring to physical rebirth. No, Jesus responds, someone who is reborn spiritually knows the experience as surely as one who has been refreshed by an invisible breeze. How can a respected rabbi among the Jews not know this (3:10)? And that is precisely the point.
Nicodemus is the first of what we might loosely call the official clergy with whom Jesus has personal engagement. In John, chapter 7, the Gospel portrays Nicodemus as a defender of Jesus’ right to a fair trial (7:-51); in chapter 19, Nicodemus helps to bury Jesus with honor. Nicodemus did not understand the new birth which Jesus spoke of until the resurrection. What does it mean to be reborn? The new birth Jesus speaks of is a spiritual birth to new life and relationship with God as his sons and daughters.
This new birth is made possible when one is baptized into Christ and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. God wants to renew all his people in the gift of new life in his Holy Spirit. This new life brings us into God’s kingdom or heavenly rule. What is God’s kingdom? God’s kingdom is that society in which God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
However, this new birth implies change. It calls for a change of heart and mind, most importantly, attitude. It is Jesus who works this change in us, and when we allow Him to take charge, we are empowered to become what we could never have been, and able to do what we ourselves thought we could never do (v8). And if we have not been able to emulate Christ previously, let this Easter be a starting point.
REFLECTION: Lord Jesus Christ, you offer us a new birth in the Holy Spirit. Renew in me the gift of faith and new life in your Holy Spirit. Grant that we allow Your wonders to work in us.
(Meditation contributed by Collin Nunis interesting that when the readings were assigned, I didn’t purposefully give this to Collin who’s a member of the Roman Catholic Church in Malaysia … I appreciate his unique contribution to our series thus far… he even got one of the Jesuit Fathers to guest write for us, this is exciting isn’t it? ~ Sivin)