There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know you’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.”
Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s kingdom.”
“How can anyone,” said Nicodemus, “be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk?”
Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind hovering over the water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.
“So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”
// John 3:1-8, The Message
We live in a world that is all about “just that.”
It’s all about the what we can see, touch, taste, smell, and hear. If it’s not “just that” then it isn’t real, it doesn’t exist. They physical world is all there is and nothing more.
At least that’s what we say.
But we live as though there is more.
I will never forget the first time I heard the heartbeats of my children. In that moment there was something that came over me. I was left in a state of awe and wonder. In that moment I began dreaming about what their lives would be like. My dreams were not “just that” they were something different.
Or the moment that I was floating in the Pacific Ocean with my brother Jay and my dad holding onto boogie boards watching the sun sink over the horizon. I can still hear the gentle hiss that we all heard as though it was really plunging into the water. In that moment the sun was not “just that.”
I have had the opportunity to be a part of a number of wedding ceremonies. When the bride begins her procession I always watch the groom. The look on his face is always spectacular. In that moment his bride was not “just that.”
We live an existence that is full of mystery and wonder and awe.
Old Nicodemus was caught up in the “just that.” In his mind religion was concrete, clear cut, with no room for ambiguity. Jesus throws a wrench in it all by talking about this whole “being born from above” stuff. Poor Nicodemus is completely confused. How can you be born a second time? That’s a fair question when you live in a “just that” world. Jesus tries to explain to Nicodemus that we live in a world that is much more than “just that.” We live in a world imbued with the Spirit. There is more to everything around us than “just that.”
I am beginning to understand that a big part, if not the central part, of being “born again” is waking up to the wonderful, beautiful, mystery that is the creation, of which we are a part. It’s not some transaction. It’s recognizing in the wind the image of the Spirit. It’s the overwhelming realization that there is more to this life than “just that.”
Jesus says later on in John that he came to bring life and life to the full. I think that for us to live this full life we need to wake up the wonderful, beautiful, mystery that surrounds us. Oh that we would be born from above to experience the joy of the beautiful mystery of our existence.
Let’s live today in light of the reality that it’s not “just that.”