Short Meditations in John 3: 9. Still Hedging
Jn 3:9,10 How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?
We have considered previously the possible options that we (and Nicodemus) have when faced with an apparently impossible teaching from God and from His Son, Jesus. We wrote off the possibility that Jesus has lost his mind and also that he’s made a mistake and really doesn’t mean what he says. He clearly does mean what he says because after the first analogy (being born of the Spirit) he gives a second one (of the wind blowing where it will) and he links the two together – “So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Now there is something else to be considered here: the maturity of listeners to Jesus and the openness or otherwise of their hearts. Supposing you were trying to convey a philosophical concept to a child, to an uneducated adult and to a mature, well-educated adult. I suggest you would use language appropriate to their level, because you wish them to understand. If you didn’t want them to understand you would use language beyond their present level of knowledge and understanding. So let’s ask a simple question: does Jesus want Nicodemus to understand? The answer has surely got to be yes, because in hindsight we can see that these things are not rocket science and Jesus is simply giving analogies that most people would understand. The end product may leave people wondering but they would understand childbirth and the wind and they would understand what Jesus was getting at, even if they didn’t see how such a thing could be.
It is often said that sin and self-centredness are blind and at this point we might be forgiven for starting to have negative feelings about the responses coming from Nicodemus – if only we ourselves weren’t so slow so often! But he still persists: “How can this be?” Now it is not as if the Old Testament hasn’t got much about the Spirit, for it has, and Nicodemus ought to have learnt from its teaching that when the Spirit came on people they were empowered and became quite different – they were like different or new people. Look up the times the Spirit came on people in the Old Testament and you will see it again and again. It is clearly there to be seen – but Nicodemus doesn’t seem to have seen it; he’s too concerned with rules, the Law.
Jesus isn’t going to let him get away with this: “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?” You are a leader, a Pharisee and you seek to teach others and yet you do not understand these very basic things I am saying to you? Implication? You should know these things! And us?