“How can one be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? – Nicodemus
Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus is a pretty classic passage, especially in regards to introducing to non-spiritual people what kind of relationship God wants with people.
This week, however, God dropped a revelation bomb on me regarding this Nicodemus person. He speaks so loudly, not just to unbelievers, but to people who have believed in Jesus for a long time.
The believers, like myself, have known God for a very long time (15 years for me at the time of this writing!). We’re pretty acquainted with Christian-ies, church practices, the who’s who of Christians. To the point where maybe our relationship with God has become old or stale. And we really, really, really, really need something new.
Because like those believers, Nicodemus was one of them. In particular, he was a “teacher of Israel”, as the passage states. He was someone whom people respected and looked up to for spiritual guidance.
Yet as we know, he gets the encounter of a lifetime.
During his conversation with Jesus, so many of his assumptions about the way God is and is like gets completely shot by Jesus.
Born again? Son of Man? Spirit blows where he pleases? What are all these new things of God that I have never heard of before?
While this passage and these ideas may be old and acquainted with us, at this point in Nicodemus’ life, he was getting a revelation which was completely new for him, to which he had no answers for. And now all his years of experience of one who has a relationship with God gets thrown out the window. All this information was too much to handle for him. He only asks questions, “How can this be? How can this be so?”.
In Nicodemus’ development as a person (even though he is old, God is still developing him!), this was the divine moment when God loudly reminds him (and us) that for all he knew as a teacher of Israel, he had barely scratched the surface of knowing who God is. All his experiences, his studies, his teachings were completely moot now that he has crossed a threshold of revelation into who God is.
And this is precisely where I see how this passage speaks to older, acquainted, and bored believers today. It is a “Nicodemus moment” where all our presumptions about who God is gets thrown out the window by God himself. Where, like Nicodemus, we graduate from being a teacher to becoming a student again. Where God isn’t old stale bread.
I believe this is the juncture at which Nicodemus begins to separate himself from the crowd of Pharisaical villains in the gospels. Those were shunned as religious leaders who loved religious culture and imposition but were bored of God.
Ah, but here is our man, Nicodemus finally seeing life again. And he separates himself from this villainous crowd, not because he is now older or wiser (a typical marker of respect for teachers), but because he is younger.
Young in spirit! Or in Jesus’ words-a baby…Born again! Born again to new sense, new sights, and to new smells. Having now experienced God and the vastness of who He is, it as if he is newborn just discovering that they are alive and breathing.
His moment as an aged adult resembles what it was like for us to first experience God-young, naive, and free. God’s awesomeness surprised us at every turn, as seeing Someone so good, kind, and loving for the first time exhilarated our hearts to the point of changing our very lives.
Perhaps his separation from religious pharisees is the separation we need to now make. In a world dying from religious rituals yet craving true life-giving spirituality, Nicodemus’ moment could truly be the answer.
The Nicodemus moment – the moment when God opens our eyes anew to how wonderful He is, amidst years of the “same old” religious duties that fail us in satisfaction and motivation. It is the moment where our hearts, at the deepest levels, begin to rediscover and be re-convinced that God is the source of the deepest human fascination and satisfaction, beyond our denomination or prior experiences.
It is the moment we realize that for all we know of God, we now know nothing. He is infinitely greater than we’ve ever realized. More complex, more beautiful, more awe-inspiring than anyone could ever put to words. And he is worthy of a thousand songs to sing and to know about.
For anyone who has had a relationship with God for years yet find the experience of such to be old, perhaps it is time to ask for a Nicodemus moment ourselves. For if we are bored of him, it is not because God is boring, it is perhaps that we are well on our way to becoming pharisees ourselves. How wonderful would it be for the God of the universe to recapture us again with the childish wonder of discovering who he is.
On a personal level, I’ve known God for about 15 years. And a deep cry came from my heart this week- “God I want to know you!” And to which God replied, “You haven’t even scratched the surface. The nature of knowing me is that you will never be bored.”
Oh God, release a Nicodemus moment to anyone who’s reading who longs to know you anew! Amen.