The night was over. The first rays of the morning sun were sending shafts of sunlight in through the windows. The flickering light of the lamp had gone out, and Jesus and Nicodemus rose from the table and stretched. Their discussion had required all those hours of exploration—Israel’s teacher had needed time to ask the Master questions a thinking person wrestles with. Jesus’ words were rich with truth and understanding, concepts Nicodemus would need to mull over on his own.
But it was clear to Nicodemus that this talk had been a study in contrasts. Jesus had shown Nicodemus the dividing line that separates inclusion in the kingdom of God from exclusion from it; spiritual birth from physical birth; eternal life from mortal life; and living in truth and light from living in evil and darkness.
Jesus doesn’t offer any neutral zone – Nicodemus understood that. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many more topics they discussed, but poor old John the disciple could only transcribe for us these twenty-one verses from the conversation. Perhaps he even nodded off sometime after midnight and missed the last few hours of talk. It wouldn’t be the last time that would happen to him.
Regardless, we can be confident that the extent of the conversation John did transcribe was precisely the part God intends for us to hear. There’s probably more in these verses than a person could grasp in a lifetime, and they are as pivotal to us as they were to Nicodemus two millennia ago.
It really all boils down to what and whom we choose to believe, says Jesus. He repeats this concept some six or seven times to emphasize it. To believe in the redeeming work of Jesus as the sole means of restoring our right relationship with God is not random; it is not haphazard, wishy-washy, or ignorant. It is the informed conviction that Jesus not only has the answer to life’s biggest questions, but He is the answer. To entrust our one and only chance at life to the One and Only Son of God is the most rational response any person can have. It is also the most difficult, because it involves admitting that His ideas, His ways and means are better than ours. And sometimes His ways are going to feel a bit uncomfortable.
We’re going to have to live day-in, day-out lives following a God who prefers us to be humble rather than proud, relational rather than detached, honest rather than superficial, and searching rather than apathetic.
It sounds a little daunting, doesn’t it? Again, Jesus draws a clear line for His followers and seems to expect more of us than is humanly possible.
Exactly the point. Jesus’ final words recorded for us of His conversation with Nicodemus explain that those who choose to live in His light are not independently capable of living that way. He says that the kind of life a Jesus-follower lives “has been done through God.”
That’s the amazing mystery. It’s the promise He makes and never withdraws: His Spirit will literally live in us and strengthen us for the challenge and adventure of eternal life. It’s the only way we can live that kind of life. That is the gospel according to Jesus.
Go dig out a Bible and pour over the gospel of John for yourself; see if it’s true. Mull over the life and words of this amazing God-man Jesus and see if He doesn’t turn your life upside down, like He has done for countless others. No one remains in the neutral zone when it comes to Him.