No “Buts” About It

John 3:1-10

“​1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?”

This is the first half of one of the great stories in all the Bible. At this point in John’s gospel, Nicodemus is one of the wise and beloved elder statesmen of the Jewish faith. Jesus is just the young firebrand rabbi with radical new ideas about how to be faithful to God, with a rapidly growing following.

In good faith, Nicodemus comes to Jesus “by night” (suggesting he was on a clandestine mission) to convince Jesus to tone it down a bit. The story quickly resembles the inability of two generations to carry on a conversation. Nicodemus is talking classical music; Jesus, rock n’ roll. They end up talking to each other on two different plains.

In these ten verses, the most important thing of note is Nicodemus’ very first declaration. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” One expects to hear Nicodemus follow that up with a “but,” to qualify his extraordinary statement. There can be no “but,” after this statement, just a period or even and exclamation point. Nicodemus’ next words should have been “how can I assist you in the mission God sent you to perform?”

We know things didn’t go that way. In an act of pure grace, Jesus did not give Nicodemus the opportunity to embarrass himself in that way. Jesus quickly seized the conversation so that the “two ships could just pass in the night.”

So, what about us? We base our lives on the truth of Nicodemus’ statement. Maybe we should do our best to avoid adding a “but” to Nicodemus’ declaration, too, and just ask Jesus how best we can assist him in the mission God sent him to perform?

Be a blessing to someone today!

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