Nicodemus needed help. He’d served God his whole life: dressed right, talked right, acted right. People looked up to him. He was going to go to heaven–wasn’t he?
The thoughts pounded through his head. Am I really good enough? Will God accept me? They tagged along during the day, lurked by his bedside at night. Is following the law, offering sacrifices, and memorizing the Scriptures enough? Sometimes he was able to push them away, but not often enough. Will I ever know the answers? Does anybody know?
It hadn’t always been like this. Used to be he was quite content following the same rituals day after day, year after year. He had been proud of how good he was, especially compared to some of those Zealots who were always stirring trouble, rebelling against the Romans. Or against the Pharisees, of whom he was one.
But then that wild preacher-man had shown up. John the Baptist, they called him. He had talked about the need to repent and be baptized, saying “The kingdom of heaven is at hand!” He hadn’t minced words, telling people exactly what he thought of them and what they should do.
John was dead now–killed by King Herod. But another man had appeared on the scene. A Galilean, from Nazareth. A son of a poor carpenter. He taught astounding things, things that were different–even opposite–of what had been taught for years. And it was said he performed miracles: multiplying food, healing the sick, walking on water, even raising the dead!
Nicodemus wondered if this man could answer the questions running through his head, wondered if he could grant Nicodemus a miracle. And so one evening he showed up to talk with Jesus. He started off with some flattery, telling Jesus he knew that he was a teacher from God.
Jesus shocked him by not pussyfooting around. He straight out told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.”
Salvation, the teacher and miracle maker said, comes by believing, by accepting the gift of God–not by works. Not by looking good. Not by following the rules. God loved the world so much that He sent His Son, and whoever believes in this Son will have eternal life. Abundant life. Life here on earth and the life to come.*
Nicodemus had come to Jesus looking for a miracle. He walked away with a miracle happening inside of him.
We so often look for miracles. We want God to show up in a mighty way and make everything right. We wish for healing, for protection, for wondrous happenings.
But miracles have already happened. Jesus died so that we could live; we can know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we will go to heaven. We can know the answers to questions like the ones Nicodemus asked in this story.
If we but ask, God’s Spirit will come to live inside us. Our sins will be washed away, and our names will be written in the Book of Life. Chains of sin will be broken; changes will start taking place. New life will be given.
Miracle after miracle after miracle.
We long for miracles–and here they are. Happening inside us.