RCL A Lent 2
Genesis 12:1-4a, Psalm 121, Romans 4:1-5 and 13-17, Saint John 3:1-17

Most every one of us, I believe, either has struggled with the questions Nicodemus poses, or we have not been aware of them, and we’ve let them fly right over our heads. After all, why should we bother the Spirit if the Spirit isn’t bothering us?

Nicodemus’ central question, “How can anyone be born after having grown old?”[1], is the question any one of us has asked if we have wondered about the spiritual world. Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus suggests that Nicodemus hasn’t had yet the opportunity to make up his mind about the spiritual world, because he has not yet experienced the spiritual world: “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”[2]

Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he must be born into the spiritual world. Nicodemus is a practical man and a lurker on the edge of Jesus’ disciples, but he hasn’t made his way into the spiritual world. It has eluded him, and maybe it eludes us. But it is there as Jesus says.

How can Nicodemus walk through the looking glass and experience the spiritual world since he doesn’t know it? His first step, I believe, is to hold out for the possibility that what Jesus tells him is true. He needs to frame in his mind the possibility that there is a spiritual world and that he may be born again in it. If he can do this, if he can open his mind to the possibility that what Jesus says is true, then he will not be surprised when he bumps into the spiritual world. Certainly, he will bump into it at one time or another. I believe we all do. It would be very odd not to bump into it since Jesus tells us that it is there.

We see Nicodemus again after the Crucifixion. He provides the customary embalming spices, and he assists Joseph of Arimathea in preparing the body of Jesus for burial. The reverence he gives to Jesus’ body opens up the possibility that Nicodemus has changed. Something has happened to him. What is it? We cannot know for sure. But I like to think that he sees a significance in the physical world, in Jesus’ body, because he associates them with their true source, the Spirit that Jesus told him about. He inhabits both the physical world and the spiritual world, and he behaves differently for knowing both.

This is the season when we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. And that celebration will not be very much if we think that Jesus’ body was his only remainder. Like Nicodemus, we are challenged to hold out for the possibility that every teaching and every pronouncement of Jesus is exactly the case. “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.”[3]

[1] Saint John 3:4.

[2] Saint John 3:6.

[3] Saint John 3:16.