What happens before the Bible’s most famous verse, John 3:16? To Jesus, the master conversationalist, relationship and meaning triumph over social norms…every time. He interrupts. He puzzles. He changes subject. He provokes. He monologues. It’s all fair game toward one overriding mission.
Because of the intense hatred of the majority of the ancient Jewish religious elite, any true seeker among them had to talk with Jesus privately, in secret, for fear of swift and terrible retribution. So one night an important and widely respected religious leader, Nicodemus, uses the cover of darkness to visit Jesus.
Let’s use our God-given sanctified imagination as if we were in the home where Jesus is staying and can watch this famous story unfold.
There’s a single sharp knock at the door.
The housemaid, Rachel, answers the door only to freeze, in abject fear, when she sees who it is. Thomas jumps up to see what’s the matter. The one who later told his compatriots, “Let’s go and die too,” stiffens his back.
“Quickly and quietly, please,” Nicodemus says.
Thomas steps back as he swings the door open. Now, everyone tenses up. Except Jesus.
At First, Jesus Plays “Nice”
Jesus stands up, smiles, walks over, kisses Nicodemus on both cheeks, and asks him to wait a minute while someone fetches a towel and basin of water. “No need. There’s little time.”
Jesus motions for Nicodemus to take the place where He had been seated. Jesus sits in front of him on the floor. The two men look at each other. And look. And look. Nicodemus takes a deep breath and relaxes his shoulders.
To no avail, Bartholomew tries to do the same.
Nicodemus begins his oft-rehearsed speech in hushed tones.
Then, Jesus Chooses to Not Play “Nice”
Judas (not Iscariot) leans in to hear what’s said, only to startle when Jesus interrupts the esteemed religious leader.
Jesus smiles as He waves His hand in the air between himself and Nicodemus.
Interrupting? Inexcusable. Waving away his opening remarks? Unheard of.
“Nicodemus, my dear man. There is no need to remind me what miraculous things I’ve been doing. There’s no need to insist I must have come from God. I know full well who I am. And you, you are one of our nation’s greatest religious teachers. You know the Hebrew Scriptures well, yet you want to ask me what they mean?
“In particular, you’re puzzled that God promises to one day give His people new hearts. Yes, that day has come, and you must be born again.”
Nicodemus is confused. “Born again? Sure, that’s going to happen…just as soon as I figure out how to get back in my dear mother’s womb!”
Rachel cups her mouth. The disciples chuckle. Ouch. Not what I wanted to think about.
Jesus comes right back at him. “Pay attention. That which is holy and true to God is like the wind, which blows wherever it wishes. So is God’s Spirit, who fulfills every word the Father speaks.”
Back and forth the two men go at it. At every turn, Jesus drives the discussion exactly where He wants to go, verbally batting Nicodemus back and forth—first this way, then that.