Today and next week, we read two stories back to back that are a study in contrasts.
Today, we hear about Nicodemus. A man. A Pharisee. A Jewish religious leader. Who comes to meet Jesus at night. Next week, you’ll hear the story of a woman. A Samaritan and an outsider. Who is unnamed. Who meets Jesus at noon - the brightest time of day. The conversation with Nicodemus in this week’s text will last for nine verses. The conversation with the unnamed woman next week will last for twenty-six verses.
But, today, our focus is the first person in this study in contrasts. Nicodemus. We begin today’s reading with the last two verses of last week’s text at the end of chapter 2. In the Greek these verses are much more closely connected to the beginning of the next chapter than they appear in English. They also foreshadow what we will hear today in this story about Nicodemus. So, we begin by reading these transitional verses and continue into chapter 3. We’re reading today in two parts.
While Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, many believed in his name because they saw the miraculous signs that he did. But Jesus didn’t trust himself to them because he knew all people. He didn’t need anyone to tell him about human nature, for he knew what human nature was.
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.”
Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?”
Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said, “How are these things possible?”
“Jesus answered, “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things? I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? --John 2:23 - John 12 (CEB)
This play of light and darkness, of night and day, is a frequent theme in John.