Nicodemus, was a member of the supreme religious council of Jewry. This learned Pharisee was convinced that the Old Law no longer sustained the people. Nic was searching for the truth to life’s questions, and came to Jesus to be taught. He came furtively in darkness for helpful guidance from Jesus, whom he sensed was the Light come into the world.
In the desert of temptation, Jesus had wrestled with the growing call from God to become the Messiah. A restless wind seemed to have blown uncontained in his face. This gusting, dynamic Holy Spirit of God taught him to disassociate from the killingly cold narrowness of the old law to follow the boundless law of love. He seemed to have emerged from the wasteland a totally free spirit.
Respectfully, Nic, the scroll-bound Pharisee, addressed Jesus as “Rabbi,” whereas his fellow elders in council spat “Ha! That uneducated Galilean peasant!” Nic had marvelled at the exciting signs and wonders wrought by Jesus. He could see that Jesus knew no one could limit the action of the Spirit of God by outworn Temple Torah Law. Nic came with faithful curiosity to learn more, using a plural “We know you are a teacher, who has come from God.” Did he speak on behalf of other councillors? It will be they who will later condemn Jesus to death without a hearing.
Jesus seemed a little terse as if Nic were one of the usual legalistic rat-bags, saying “We speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen. Yet, you do not receive our testimony.” That is, “instead of accepting the evidence before your eyes, your people procrastinate with endless questions. If you don’t believe earthly things which are plain to see, what use is there in my telling you of things that you won’t see, the things of God? ”
Then Jesus dumped a big whammy on Nic. “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born again from above, that is, from out of this world.” Alas! being “born from above” also translates as “born again.” Poor Nic was utterly confused and asked “How can one physically go back into mummy’s tummy?” Was he thinking of a Sumo wrestler? An aside: at a medical centre, a burly foot-brawler roared with pain. A midwife came in to quiet the din. He moaned “I just had my displaced shoulder put back and it hurt.” “Oh, you big sook, a mother scarcely made a sound when she just delivered a seven pound baby.” He: “I bet she would, if you tried putting that back.”
Jesus had to qualify the wordplay “born from above” or “born again.” He spoke of an event on the Exodus march from two thousand years before. Ungrateful Hebrew malcontents grumbled and griped, voicing displeasure at God’s direction: “we detest this loathsome manna and quails. Life in Egyptian slavery was better than this endless trek to the Promised Land.” God didn’t take kindly to their calling him a mishandling murderer in the wilderness. So, God allowed a muster of poisonous serpents to invade the camp. When the snakes bit, some cried for Moses to intercede with God to stop the bites. They owned “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord.” The Lord relented and had Moses make a bronze serpent attached to a pole. The stricken were to look up to the very image that had brought death, to receive new life as if through an antivenene. Just as the bronze serpent “lifted up”
Sermon by – Fr.(Rev) Walter McEntee