One of the most basic forms of communication is looking into another person’s face. It’s called coming ‘face to face’ with someone. We do it all the time, even for a fraction of a second, when we’re not in too much of a rush to get through the day.
William Shakespeare is quoted as saying, “The eyes are the windows to the soul”. It’s true—when we look at another person we are communicating something, a message of some kind. Have you noticed that most of us when we travel on buses and trains deliberately avoid looking at another person—why? My guess is fear of retaliation. We don’t want to get too close in case we are misunderstood. People like their space and don’t want that space to be invaded.
But when we truly come face to face with someone, we see into their soul, and it changes us. You probably know what I mean. Think of your best friend, and the way you share with him/her. You look at their face when talking, and the interaction continues. Hopefully for the better. But I want to suggest that when we come in contact with Jesus, it changes you forever. We think about a man named Nicodemus, a man who came to Jesus alone and in the safety of night. It was in the dark of this night that his eyes met the eyes of Jesus and he came face to face with the divine grace of God. We read in John 3:1-5 (CEV):
There was a man named Nicodemus who was a Pharisee and a Jewish leader. One night he went to Jesus and said, “Sir, we know that God has sent you to teach us. You could not work these miracles, unless God were with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you for certain that you must be born from above before you can see God’s kingdom!”
Nicodemus asked, “How can a grown man ever be born a second time?”
I tell you for certain that before you can get into God’s kingdom,you must be born not only by water,but by the Spirit.
He was a religious Pharisee, a leader of the Jews, and a very influential person in his day and highly respected—people looked up to him. But all was not well. Nicodemus was searching for something more in life—he was looking for truth and meaning in his own life. He was sick of all the pretence—so he came to Jesus at night when no-one else would see him. He wanted the truth. At least he was honest.
Many today are not honest about seeking truth—they avoid thinking about Jesus because they don’t want to change their lives, or are worried about losing their independence. How sad—when we meet Jesus he gives us life in all its fullness. He gives us what is real and not fantasy. But Nicodemus seemed confused when Jesus said he had to be born again. It was too simple—there had to be rules,surely but, ‘born again’?
Nicodemus was a good man, upright, moral and sincere—wasn’t that enough? It’s not about new resolutions or turning a new leaf. Didn’t Nicodemus deserve something better? He seems worthy of eternal life. But Jesus meant a whole new beginning of accepting him as the Lord of life. It has nothing to do with human effort or merit. Being born again refers to the rebirth of your soul into a new spiritual creation through a profound relationship with Jesus Christ.
We Are Lost
The idea of being lost from God is a recurrent theme in the story of Jesus. He tells the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin. We see here in this conversation with Nicodemus that in spite of all his religion and honesty that he was lost from God because he was born of flesh but not of the water and the spirit of God. He was lost from the presence of God.
The difficulty with being lost is that most of us have a tough time admitting it. But the Bible is very clear: Nicodemus was lost and loved by a God who did something about it. As it says in John 3:16: “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life.”
So that night Nicodemus didn’t realise probably what was going on: Jesus was looking for him just as he looks for us today.
Meridian Christian Church 2/12/06