The Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus late one night. He, like many others, had seen and heard Jesus teaching. He had witnessed the miracles. He began to realize something was acutely different about this man, and he had to know. Who was he? Who was he really?
In the course of the conversation that night Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be “born again.” To understand the strength of this statement, you need to put yourself in the place of Nicodemus. You see, for us on this side of the cross, the term “born again” has all kinds of images and theological meaning tied to it. For Nicodemus, he had never heard of that concept before. What could this mean? What on earth is Jesus talking about?
What Christ-followers often forget about this exchange is that Jesus is not finished after telling Nicodemus that he needs to be “born again.” Jesus offers a glimpse of the mystery of what He is talking about. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit”—John3:8.
What Jesus has to say is brilliant... and mystifying. The term for “wind” and the term for “spirit” are one and same word—pneuma. What Jesus is saying to Nicodemus is this: The ways of God are mysterious, as inexplicable as the wind. You can’t fully explain it; you can’t fully grasp it. Trying to fully comprehend the spirit (pneuma) is like trying to fully comprehend the wind (pneuma).
Somewhere along the way, we’ve fallen in love with certainty. We feel that in order to “know” something we need to have an ironclad understanding of that thing. Questions that are left unanswered are seen as quests to be conquered. What results is a reduction of the mystery to mere formula.
What I find fascinating is that Nicodemus walks away from Jesus without a clear understanding of what Jesus is talking about, and that’s okay with Jesus. He doesn’t walk away with a three-step formula for being “born again.” The story, much like the point Jesus is getting at, is unresolved, a mystery that forces Nicodemus, as well as the reader, to walk away... thinking, pondering, wondering, and searching.
Faith is a lifelong journey. Just when you awaken to a deeper understanding of the vastness of who God is, you discover there is something still beyond. It’s okay not to have it all figured out. It’s okay not to have all the answers worked out in a nice and easy package. Apparently, seeing faith as an open-ended mission is okay. It was for Nicodemus that night with Jesus.
If we had all the answers, it wouldn’t be called faith, now would it?