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Conversation with Nicodemus

  • International
  • March 18, 2012
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The conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus is one of the great passages in John’s Gospel. Here we see Jesus leading the earnest seeker to a more complete understanding of the mystery that he is. Jesus plays with paradox, that is, he uses simple words but gives them more profound meanings.

The first thing that Jesus tells Nicodemus is that to understand heavenly things, one needs to be “born again” – not a physical, but a spiritual re-birth. In other words, one mustn’t just ‘see things’ but ‘look into the meaning of things’.

Then Jesus uses another metaphor -- to talk about ‘the things of heaven’ one needs to go ‘up to heaven’. But who can do this save one alone, the ‘Son of Man’ whose home is heaven? It is the Son of Man who must be lifted up, as Moses raised up the bronze serpent in the desert, so that as many as raised their eyes to this symbol were saved from death.

There is a play on ‘being lifted up’ – it means both, ‘being raised up on a cross’, the death
Jesus was to die by crucifixion; and also his ‘glorification’ or ‘exaltation’ – when the Father takes Jesus to himself, and places him at his right hand, giving him a Name above all other names. For Jesus raised on the cross, it is also the moment of his glorious Resurrection, when he pours his Spirit into the hearts of all those who believe in him.

This then is the mission of Jesus: not to judge and condemn the world, but to save the world, and bring it to eternal life. To have faith in Jesus, to place one’s trust in him, is to open oneself to everlasting life.

Sadly, not everyone wants this. Evil-doers love the dark, where they can work their evil without being seen. But those who are good and honest come into the light so that it can be clearly seen that God is in all that they do.

The conversation with Nicodemus is the first of the great conversations in John’s Gospel. Step by step, Jesus leads this intelligent Jewish lawyer to realize that it is the life in the Spirit which is vital, which is God’s gift, and which creates new persons in all who receive it.
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