Acts 4:32-37; John 3:7-15
…see the kingdom
The gospel of John was written about 60 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Unlike the other three gospels, it was written as a testimony to Jesus’s divinity. Chapter 1: “He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God”. “with God” speaks to the preexisting relationship between God and Jesus. Jesus’ divinity. Signs, symbols of light and darkness, life and death, spirit and wind, seeing and rebirth are testimonial themes to Jesus’ divinity and relationship with God. The gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke speak of Jesus’s journeys, parables, and healings. They testify to Jesus’s humanity. These gospels are a call to discipleship. John’s gospel is an invitation to be in relationship, in communion with Jesus’s Father, with God, just as Jesus is in relationship with his Father.
We first meet Nicodemus, a “... Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews… as he approaches Jesus “…at night”. Not only is it dark, little light to see by, but also, Nicodemus is in the dark, confused,about who Jesus is. Possibly even curious. “…no one can do these signs that you (Jesus) are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus responds, “…unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus is saying Nicodemus needs the light from above in order to see the kingdom. What is this light? How is one to be born again? The gospel goes on to say that the light, and rebirth are born of the “spirit”. “…the wind (spirit) blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
We hear of Nicodemus approaching Jesus “at night”. Later we hear of the testimony of the Samaritan woman who approaches Jesus at the well in the hottest time of the day. We do not know what happens to Nicodemus after this initial contact with Jesus. Where did his curiosity and confusion take him? We do know that the Samaritan women, who approached Jesus in the light, saw and understood what Jesus was saying to her. She left to tell her friends and neighbors about what she had seen and heard. What she understood.
The next time we meet Nicodemus is at Jesus’ crucifixion. (Chapter 21) Nicodemus brings herbs and spices and assists Joseph of Arimathea in preparing Jesus’ body for burial. Initially Nicodemus approached Jesus in the “night”, in darkness and confusion and curiosity. This time he approaches the crucified Jesus in daylight possibly with fear, but also with courage and compassion. Somewhere along his journey, the Spirit, the Wind blew over and through him bringing him into the light so he could see the kingdom. Nicodemus had been “born again”.
John’s gospel concludes: (John 21:24) “There are also many other things, (testimonies), that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.”
When, where, how and with whom did the Spirit, the Wind, the Breath of God blow through me, ruffle the feathers of my heart giving me new life that I was able to see more clearly or what I had not seen before? My friend who listens always with a soft shoulder and a tender heart. Or the worn down drug addict facing painful childhood memories, now able to make a mess finger painting without fear of harsh parental reprimand. The young child with brilliant hair ribbons bobbing as she plays her first piano recital. The newborn swaddled snuggly to her mother’s breast. With joy, compassion and solidarity I see more clearly the beauty and dignity of the other – no matter how old, how sick, how needy. I try, not always successfully, to notice when my heart feathers are ruffled. To see we are the kingdom.
By Joan Howard