NICODEMUS was a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night. He was a religious person concerned about knowing God and his ways, and he went to Jesus as to a teacher of religion. What he needed was not so much to receive instruction, however, as to undergo a change within himself.
That, too, is what we need. We must recognize our powerlessness – by ourselves, unaided – to pass through the barriers which block us from an authentic life. Like Nicodemus, despite all our accumulated experience and knowledge (or because of them), we are old people.
Jesus says we must be born again and born from above: John’s Gospel uses a word that can be interpreted in both senses (v.3). Nobody gives birth to himself, and just as we received our life in the flesh from others so, too, we receive the life of the Son of God from the Spirit.
All claim that they live; something moves in them, thoughts come to them, and they make decisions… Yet this could possibly be nothing more than the life of the flesh, or the life of an un-awakened person.
The other life, that of the Spirit, is more mysterious because it takes place in the innermost depths of our being. We see the external appearance, we notice a person’s face and behavior, but we do not see God’s working in her. The awakened believer, however, who is habitually led by the Spirit gradually discovers changes in what motivates her actions and her ambitions. She feels at ease with God and without fear, experiencing that it is not so much she who orients her life, as another who lives in her. Yet she could not, in fact, be able to say exactly what happens within her.
Hence Jesus compares the action of the Spirit with the passing of the wind that we feel, although we do not see or hold it. Let us also take note that in Jesus’ language the same word means spirit as much as "wind."
We have to be reborn of water and of the Spirit: this points to baptism. Let us not think that merely by receiving the waters of the baptism, one is fully established in the life of the Spirit; rather, let us realize that normally one is baptized in order to begin the life of the Spirit: the words of the Gospel refer to adults converted to the Christian faith. The case of infant baptism is different. Baptism works within them. Yet they should receive instruction in the faith to lead them to personal conversion.
Like many in Israel Nicodemus was a religious person and a believer. Why did he come by night? Possibly he did not want to risk his position and reputation, or mix with the common people around Jesus. This would not be the attitude of those who have been born again; these have been liberated from many things that paralyze others.
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