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.
Nicodemus, as we saw yesterday, was a Pharisee who went to visit Jesus one night. He tells Jesus that he knows he comes from God because no one could perform the signs he performed if God were not with him. Then follows a rather bewildering conversation about the meaning of being "born again" or "born from above", and mention of seeing the "kingdom of God".
Nicodemus does not seem to understand anything that Jesus is saying, leading Jesus to express his surprise. “You are a teacher of Israel, and you don’t understand these things?”, Jesus exclaims. I don’t think Jesus was being mocking; I think he was trying to get Nicodemus to realize that he could not understand spiritual realities from a worldly perspective. He had to, as Paul would later advise us, reprogram his mind (see Romans 12:1-2).
Paul understood the need for this very well. He was a man well versed in the Scriptures. He had studied under Gamaliel, who like a guru of gurus. He was very intelligent; very knowledgeable. But because of all this “knowledge” Paul taught he had all the answers. He also thought he knew God; after all he knew so much about him!
But, one day, Paul saw a man named Stephen go to his death, with a smile on his face and a prayer on his lips, and Paul realized that he was looking at a man who actually KNEW God, not just knew ABOUT him. And Paul was primed for the conversion that would take place a few days later on the road to Damascus. A lot of merely studying Scripture might make us Scripture scholars, but we won’t ever get to know God unless we encounter him.
I try to get you to this encounter every morning through these reflections. I don’t want you to listen to them, and take what you hear me say as gospel truth just because it sounds very profound, or because I appear very knowledgeable. I want you to think deeply about what you hear, chewing it until makes sense to you. The things that Jesus say seem baffling, but if you think long enough the answer eventually clicks, and then you wonder why it took you so long to get it.
Kinda like the puzzle I gave you to solve yesterday. I said: “Take six matchsticks and make four equilateral triangles with them, with the length of each side of the triangles equalling the length of a matchstick.” Many of you might have tried and found it impossible, because you were thinking two-dimensionally, laying the sticks flat on the table. The instant you thought three-dimensionally, you got the solution, which is a pyramid.
So, let me end by saying to you what Jesus said to Nicodemus. “You must be born from above.” As a Christian you ARE born from above. But what does that mean? Don’t tell me what your teachers — or Google — taught you. Tell me what you have understood for yourself. Think about it long enough and you’ll get it. I promise.