There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Nicodemus is an interesting character. He appears three times in John’s Gospel: in chapters 3, 7 and 19. In all three scenes he is hesitating and hanging back, or he is arriving too late. He appears a man of hesitation and half-action, the patron saint of all waverers and half-believers.
In his first appearance he comes to Jesus by night, because he is afraid for his reputation. (today’s reading). He was a leader, so he had to be careful and cover his tracks. Such a careful man finds it hard to hear what Jesus is saying about the Spirit. The Spirit is like the wind, Jesus is saying; “you hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going.” And you, Nicodemus, will be like that if you are born in the Spirit; “it is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” What! - not know where I'm coming from or where I'm going? But I have this compulsion to know precisely that at every turn. Then, Nicodemus, you will never know more than you know now; you cling to what you know, and it clings to you....
In another of his appearances (chapter 7), instead of making an impassioned plea for Jesus he asks a half-hearted question: “Does our law condemn people without first hearing them...?” And instead of following it up, he leaves it hanging in mid-air. He was among other Pharisees, and a moment earlier the question had been asked (it was more a statement than a question), “Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in him?” The sense of the question was, “Can't you see that no Pharisee believes in him!” In that atmosphere of certainty, Nicodemus’s timid question was totally ineffective.
In his third appearance (chapter 19) he was too late: Jesus was already dead. He brought myrrh and aloes to anoint the dead body. He could relate better to a dead Christ. He was not there at Pentecost. He was watching where he came from and where he was going. John’s gospel plays constantly on the theme or light and darkness. Nicodemus was a creature of the shadows, half-way between light and dark.
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