It's Bright In Here!
Nicodemus was a member of the upper echelon of Jewish society. He was wealthy, educated and well-respected. He was part of a group that was responsible for making sure the Jewish people were happy with the Romans and the Romans were happy with the Jewish people. As long as they did their job, the Romans made life very comfortable for them. So, the name of the game was “Don’t Rock the Boat.” Only one person was allowed to rock the boat as far as the Jewish ruling council was concerned: The Messiah. He could rock as hard as he wanted, because they knew he would drive the Romans out and return Israel to its rightful place of international prominence. When the Messiah showed up they knew he would set things right (with all his might) and they would benefit from his kingdom even more than they had from the Romans.
When Nicodemus shows up to talk to Jesus, he wants to know if Jesus has any inside information on when God might actually show up and initiate his kingdom. But he doesn’t actually get around to asking about that. He simply says, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2).
Jesus kind of interrupts him and says, “I know you’re here to ask about when the kingdom is going to come. I tell you the truth, no one can even see the kingdom unless they’ve been born again.”
“I tell you the truth.”
In other words, “Nick, if you’ve got a pair of sunglasses handy, you might want to put them on right now. It’s about to get really bright in here.”
Nicodemus must have thought Jesus was joking. Born again? Nicodemus (like most other Jewish men) thought he was born right the first time. He didn’t need to be born again. He was already a Jewish man. It didn’t get any better than that, did it?
What Jesus was saying to Nicodemus was so different from what Nick and his friends believed — it must have really taken him off guard. Jesus was saying that God is not a racist — that being related to the right people doesn’t get you into God’s kingdom.
The Pharisees (of Jesus’ day and our day as well) believe that entrance into God’s kingdom was based on being born the right way and living the right way. Be Jewish and obey the law. That’s how you get in, and that’s how you stay in. There’s a good God who only lets good people into his good kingdom.
Jesus says that’s wrong. Good people don’t get into the kingdom; forgiven people do.
That’s really bright. It’s confusing to some, offensive and frightening. But if you’ll stay there in the light for a while, your eyes will adjust and you’ll be able to see how great this arrangement really is.
John sums up this story by saying that the Light (capital “L) came into the world, but many people in the world actually preferred darkness to the Light. It hurt their eyes. It was confusing, offensive, frightening, uncomfortable. So, they withdrew from the Light and want back to the darkness where they were comfortable.
Nicodemus, however, refused to go back inside. It was difficult and didn’t make much sense (“How can this be?” he asks Jesus), but he stayed there — mostly on the fringes — taking it in. Eventually, his eyes were opened to see both the kingdom and the King as they really are.