He was an expert in his religion, a member of the most respected and influential group in Judaism, a dedicated follower of his religious laws … And yet, he wondered.
He had quietly watched as the zealous Galatian teacher, Jesus, had miraculously overcome hunger, sickness, madness, death and demonic powers in peoples lives … Miracles that he believed only God could accomplish.
Nicodemus was a sincere man and a cautious man.
Not wanting to cause a stir or arouse the attention of religious authorities, he slipped quietly out of his house as the shadows of evening deepened.
He made his way hurriedly through the back-ways, the dark alleys, until, at last, he found himself at the house where the teacher was staying.
He came wanting to know something … not quite sure what …
There have been many Nicodemuses in this world – sincere, respected people of integrity. Some have immersed themselves in techniques of meditation and altered consciousness, fasting, chanting mantras, rigorous yoga exercises and disciplined study.
Some have zealously prayed five times a day, fasted thirty days every year, memorised religious texts, given freely to the poor … some have sought to absorb the power of crystals, of new positive thought patterns seeking to live fully and freely.
Others sit for hours whirling prayer flags to gain merit.
Some have conscientiously read books on Christian lifestyle and dogmas, gone to church … even given their lives as missionaries.
All have one thing in common.
They are trying to birth themselves and their efforts to accomplish this are never ending.
Stuck in an eternal circle of never ending trying, trying, trying.
With every year their footsteps wear deeper into the ground and slowly the circle becomes a trench.
The idea of reincarnation becomes comforting as, at the end of each rotation, we realise we haven’t got much further.
What did Jesus have to say about this?
“Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with Him.”
Nicodemus respected Jesus as a teacher and waited expectantly for his reply.
“I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
An answer so simple. An answer so impossible.
You may wonder, why should a person need to change?
Why the need to be recreated? To be born again? Why not just learn the behave appropriately in each situation – then we would all be comfortable.
The Pharisees and teachers of the Law, to who Nicodemus belonged were good at engineering rules for appropriate behaviour.
We all are.
What did Jesus have to say about appropriate behaviour?
“Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You lean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
First clean the inside of the cup and dish and the outside will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees. You hypocrites!
You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.
In the same way, on the outside you appear to the people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
Jesus called the religious gurus of his time blind guides – Yes they were sincere. And yes, they were sincerely on the wrong path.
A path headed far from the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus’ head was stacked full of complex religious rules, techniques and procedures. He had thought he had possessed all the pieces to complete the circle of life.
But here was a new piece, one there was no way he could procure himself – “You must be born again.”
Your life will be out of sync with God unless you are born again.
An answer so simple.
An answer so humanly impossible.
Break the circle, fly with the Spirit.
In Tibet, A Christian once commissioned a Tibetan Buddhist priest to paint a wheel of life, relating to Jesus Christ. The priest went into his trance and, inspired, painted the traditional wheel of life. To his horror, the cycle of reincarnation was broken by Jesus. He had painted a broken wheel, life spiralling up and out of the eternal cycle.
Jesus said to Nicodemus “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”
“You must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit is not bound or restricted by the ruts of religion we get ourselves into.
Jesus’ words “You must be born again” can also be translated as “born from above”.
In his day, many were immersing themselves in water as a sign of repentance, of renouncing evil and recommitting themselves to live life God’s way. This is probably what Jesus meant in saying “born of water” – This is a person’s decision to renounce evil and follow God.
Jesus spoke of being born of water and of the Spirit as going together. He meant that if we are to be born again, or born from above, it is something supernatural – something the Holy Spirit does and continues to do in us – no religious procedure, altered state of consciousness, mind discipline or technique can re-birth us.
The person born again, born of the Spirit flys free, up and out of the never ending circle of human effort. Some have described this as like an eagle soaring up and up in graceful spirals, guided by an invisible powerful wind.
Nicodemus’ categories of reality had been shattered – Astounded, he humbly asked “How can this be?”
© Kathryn Richards, 1996