Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.
So he goes undercover. Nicodemus comes to Jesus under the cover of night so that he cannot be seen and recognized by those in his fan club—by those who follow him. This ruler is in a weird position because in most circles he is the teacher. But here he comes to Jesus to ask questions and inquire about things.
The initial dialog portrays Nicodemus as trying to engage in cocktail party, networking talk. He said to Jesus, in essence, in verse 2, “I’ve been checking out your references and your reputation, and it seems like you have it going on.” Now the usual way this dialog works is that the person who received that compliment should reciprocate. Jesus should have said to Nicodemus how much he admired him and his body of work as well.
But Jesus took this conversation in another direction. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (verse 3). These are confusing metaphors and quite contradictory. Being born, which is a quite powerless image, and entering the kingdom, which represents a place of power. You can see how confusing it was to Nicodemus by his reaction. He wondered if he had to go back into his mother’s womb and come back out.
Jesus was having a conversation with an undercover boss, and showed us some powerful things about the Christian life by His imagery. In speaking to someone who understands having power and knowledge, and who is accustomed to depending on human strength, Jesus used surprisingly powerless images.
Jesus compared the start of the Christian experience to birth. If I remember anything about when I was first born (and I do not) it was my most helpless and vulnerable time. I was completely dependent on someone else for everything. We are so helpless that our entrance into the world, the birth process comes about because of the efforts of the mother and those delivering the baby. The baby does not give birth to his or her self, which is a telling lesson for us as we consider how the process of conversion happens. It is through the power of Christ that we are born again. We do not birth ourselves spiritually (so stop pushing).
As if He had not confused Nicodemus enough, Jesus then used another image that showed lack of effort. In verse 8 Jesus described wind blowing and not seeing it. Wind? Seems weak, right? But if you have ever seen wind move a seemingly immobile piece of debris and deposit it in some far-off place you understand its power. Maybe Jesus was trying to help Nicodemus and us—to understand the process by which we grow. We are not the wind; we are the piece of paper on the floor. And God’s spirit moves on us gradually and slowly, and causes us to be moved. Sometimes we wish it was a tornado, but Jesus describes a calmer wind. But I guess the good news for us is that the wind still moves things. And God’s spirit still changes us, even if it is not as fast as we may want it. Nicodemus, the undercover boss, did not expect this. He had come to depend on his own strength, but Jesus kept pointing to being powerless under the control of God. It makes us uncomfortable as well. We are accustomed to getting things, and accomplishing things based on our knowledge, capabilities, gifts, and connections, but in this system that Jesus is describing all of them go out the window. The Christian life is based on the acknowledgment that we are powerless, and
God is all-powerful. He is the One who is able to save.
Recently I saw a real tear-jerking episode of Undercover Boss. At the end of each episode, the boss reveals who he is and gives promotions, gifts, and awards to some of his or her employees. Well, in this episode, after the boss revealed his identity to an unsuspecting dedicated worker he then gave her a new home. She was homeless with her kids. His act of kindness blew her away.
The twist in this Bible passage is that even though Nicodemus comes in as the Undercover Boss, he discovers that Jesus is the real boss. He is the one in full disguise and Jesus is the one doling out gifts. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus is God under the cover of humanity. And in Him God gave, and gives us, the best gift He can ever give—
His Son. He extended that gift not just to Nicodemus, but also to all of us. And anyone who accepts that gift gets another gift, eternal life. To think about it, it almost blows you away.
KYMONE HINDS, his wife, and their three energetic children live in Memphis, Tennessee He pastors two churches, Overton Park, and Journey Fellowship Seventh-day Adventist churches. He also speaks, and blogs regularly on different life issues. You can connect with Kymone via twitter@kymonehinds, or on his blog at comejourney.org.
THE SECRET OF SEARCHING
Deep and wide: A familiar description that accurately depicts the real estate of being a Christian. We all from time to time have the unction to go deeper. It also dawns on us periodically that our God is wider than the breath of our imagination. Hopefully this drives us, like it did Nicodemus, to have a confrontation with the Christ. Talk to us about your thoughts via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.
Is it just me, or is Jesus making a statement that has nothing to do with what Nicodemus just said? Has it ever seemed as though what God has allowed to happen in your life has nothing to do with what you pray about? You talk to Him about peace and you always deal with stress. You converse with Him about love and you are always lonely. Do you have any experiences like that?
I believe that in my lifetime I have had some legitimate observations that God did not consider. There were some things I thought should happen that did not happen. I believed a certain way should have been taken that He closed off. Have you ever disagreed with God?
The struggle Nicodemus was having is one that most of us have had. How do we, who are not naturally attuned to the spiritual, decipher the spiritual? Jesus uses something comparable to try to make it clear. He says, “We must be born again.” We must have a spiritual awakening from the womb of our previous mindsets. Have you had any “awakenings?” Talk to us via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, by #MessageMagazine.
It cannot be overemphasized how central the Gospel is to be in Christianity. Look at what Jesus did, and then look at what Jesus says as His words conclude. Can you see what searching leads you to?
Very often our seeking out of God is rooted in selfish desires and yearning for personal comfort. I believe God has to sometimes make our journey an adventure so that we can loose ourselves in the process. It’s only when we loose ourselves that we are truly ready for the secrets of God. He gave all so
that we can have more
*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Rashad Burden is the associate pastor of the Progression church, in Atlanta, Georgia.