LECTIONARY PASSAGE: John 3: 1-17
Now 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 said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
At church, part of what I do is handle our endowment program. And once each month, I sit down to reconcile our operating account on Quickbooks. When you print the reconciliation, the screen has what I think is the most hilarious directive. You have the option of clicking a box to print it out in color. But next to the box, it says “Print the document in color (only for color printers)”. Well, duh! It’s just funny. I thought about that when I started thinking about this term “born again”. I am tired of hearing what has become a never-ending cast of characters in the public media describing someone (or even themself!) as a “Born Again Christian”. When did that become a proper name? What exactly is the difference between a “Born Again Christian” and a “Christian”. I’m confused. It’s like reading the 16th verse of this passage and interpreting it “Every one who believes has eternal life. (only for those who are born again).” It’s just funny!
I don’t think that Jesus ever meant these words to shut out anyone. After all, in light of the rest of what we know about him and his life here on earth, would that really make sense? The Greek word used here is anothen. It can mean “born from above”, “born anew”, or “born again”. So take your pick. It can be translated as a time one is born (again) and a place one is born (above) and what it all looks like (anew). Well, no wonder Nicodemus was confused! He focuses on one meaning (born again) and protests that it is impossible. Well, of course it is! But Jesus is telling him that if he will just stop trying pick it apart, he would see it. He would see the Kingdom of God. The passage tells us that no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above…the wind blows 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. Jesus wasn’t belittling Nicodemus or shutting him out. Jesus was telling him that he was just like everyone else–that what he was seeing and what he was hearing did not make sense through the lenses and the ears of this world. It’s like he was saying,”Nicodemus, my son, relax and come with me. I want to show you what comes next. I want to show you life.” Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. So, Jesus came to save the whole world? Hmmm!
I do not call myself a “Born Again Christian”. When I was little and well-meaning people would ask the question, “when were you born again?”, I didn’t know. I was always a little afraid that I had missed it. What a horrible thing to do to a child! I have decided that the term is redundant. I am a Christian. I follow the Way of Jesus Christ, the Way that leads me closer and closer to a oneness with God, a return to the Source from whence I came. According to this passage, that is the Way to see and know the Kingdom of God. “Born again” is more to me than a slogan on a T-shirt or fodder for a talk show. It is a gift, an indescribeable, albeit hard to understand, gift. It is life. Jesus just showed us where to look.
So on this Lenten journey, don’t worry about it making sense. Just follow the Way of Christ, the way that leads to new life.
Grace and Peace,