Understandably, Nicodemus was more confused than ever. He asks: “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4).
Maybe Nicodemus’ questions are literal, but given he is a high-ranking Pharisee, I would hope it is safe to assume this guy is pretty smart. I think the question he is really asking lay underneath: Why in the world would we want to be born anew?
The culture that Jesus and Nicodemus are immersed in is one that places a high value on the wisdom that comes with age. Why would anyone want to give up a lifetime of wisdom to begin anew? To give up the earned respect and perceived power from a lifetime of living, would be to risk that maybe we had actually gotten some things about the kingdom of God wrong.
How often do we wish we could tell our younger selves something important we have learned later in life? Or how often do we actually acknowledge that we got something wrong? I imagine we all know at least a few highly functioning adults who will go to incredible lengths to avoid admitting they might actually have been wrong about something. Why in the world would anyone want to be born anew if they had to sacrifice the power, the respect, the wisdom of a long life?
Since the “you” Jesus uses in today’s gospel is plural, we know his answers to Nicodemus are not just directed at him. They are directed at anyone curious about the kingdom of God, both then, and now. Jesus is telling us that if we want to see the kingdom of God, if we want to even begin to grasp some aspect of heavenly things, we have to start over. And not just once. Rather we meet our faith anew every morning. Again and again, our whole life long.
It is a little bit like our vision. Many of us at one point had 20/20 vision, but instead of our eyesight improving with age, with the accumulated experience of sight, we often see less well, and things become blurry. We need glasses to make things clear and crisp again. Following and understanding God does not get easier with time and age, unless we are willing to be born anew. Then we will see our faith through new eyes every single day. In other words, Jesus is asking us to go to the optometrist and spring for a pair of glasses.
Because crazy things will happen with the correct prescription; with a faith that is new every morning. We will look outside and we will begin to see how God is inviting us to steer the brokenness of creation back towards God’s desire for creation.
It’s when we notice that, maybe we were actually wrong to deny climate change.
Maybe, we were wrong to treat brown and black people as less than white people.
Maybe, we were wrong about assuming a woman’s place is in the home.
Maybe, we were wrong to believe gender and sexual orientation are a checkbox, instead of a spectrum.
Maybe, we were wrong to believe the only way God could save the world was to murder his only Son.
Maybe, we have been wrong about a lot of things.
What are we not even clued into that we are wrong about today?
If we do not look to God anew with fresh eyes we may miss God altogether.
Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). The Son of God is trying to get our attention, trying to help us wake up. How fresh and new are the eyes of our faith? Is it time for some new glasses?May God open the eyes of our hearts, this day and everyday. Amen.
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