Strange Analogy (John 3:1-8)
Two men sat in the dark, one small oil lamp casting upward shadows on their faces. The one had arrived secretively, a dark robe draping his face to avoid recognition. He felt the piercing eyes of the other probing deep into his soul.
“The miracles you do…” began the visitor, “…Rabbi, you must be a teacher who has come from God.” His voice trailed away in confusion.
The rabbi looked searchingly at his nighttime guest. He knew more of this man Nicodemus than the man knew of himself.
“Do you want to know the truth?” Jesus began. “You cannot truly understand the thoughts and ways of God unless you allow yourself to be born all over again.” He let the truth of the strange analogy sink into the consciousness of his shadowy friend.
“Impossible!” Nicodemas exploded in exasperation, refusing to open his mind to the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words. “How could I, an old man, re-enter my mother’s womb and be born a second time?”
I’m sure Jesus smiled. His visitor was a well-educated man; he was easily capable of thinking abstract existential thoughts. But here, when the moment of truth would require him to fully relinquish his mindset of superiority, he balked. His pride recoiled at the idea of giving up everything he had painstakingly worked for – the honour of being a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council and Israel’s teacher – to start anew as a baby would.
This is perhaps the biggest stumbling block in coming to Jesus. The phrase ‘born again’ is an analogy relevant to every one of us, but it irks us. It means that we bring nothing to the table but our will. It requires us to be completely submissive to God’s Spirit in anticipation of a gift we cannot provide ourselves: spiritual life. This life cannot be accessed by meditation, karma, good works or good luck. We cannot enter into it through the natural processes of physical life or physical death.
It is God’s Spirit that gives birth to our spirit.
As we take a moment to consider this thought we will likely have one of three responses:
We will be thankful – a great sense of gratitude will fill our hearts and minds as we acknowledge that, yes, we have accessed that gift; we have a new life and we are growing daily to be more like Jesus by God’s grace.
Or we will be resentful – we will reject the idea that we need an external source of life, one that comes with a set of guidelines for how we must live it.
Or we will be resolute – we will realize that today, here and now, is the moment offered us by the Sovereign loving God to bow our will and receive that new life. It is our birth day.
Nicodemus’ reaction, I believe, was beginning to transition from the second to the third response. It’s hard to hear the nuance of emphasis when the words are only in print. But I think I hear a softening, an opening of the heart, a willingness to believe. Do you?
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. His longing for authentic relevant relationship with God was beginning to rise stronger than his long-nurtured pride. Born again; it was a strange analogy, but it rung true.
(Photo Credit: “”Diyo” oil lamp” by Sam Shrestha – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%22Diyo%22_oil_lamp.jpg#mediaviewer/File:%22Diyo%22_oil_lamp.jpg)