In the middle of the night a very learned and devout man, a Pharisee, came to visit Jesus. Nicodemus is also described as being a leader of the Jews which probably means he was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the 70 member supreme court of the Jewish people whose jurisdiction was worldwide.
That such an important man should want to visit Jesus, a penniless charismatic preacher from Galilee probably explains why Nicodemus chose to visit Jesus under the cloak of darkness.
A more learned, pious and influential man it would be hard to imagine. The Pharisees devoted their lives to scrupulously reading and interpreting every word of the law and applying it to every day life.
But something was obviously missing in his life. That’s why he slipped out in the darkness to seek out Jesus and his wisdom.
He was seeking wisdom and he was given it. He was told that for all his intellect, all his powers of interpretation and deduction gleaned from the Bible and applied in formulating laws for the people to follow there was a gaping hole in his life – an emptiness that in going to Jesus Nicodemus was obviously trying to fill. He needed a relationship with God; the spirit of sonship.
It was there that the missing piece of the jigsaw was given to Nicodemus. What he was missing was an experience of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit that no amount of study and disciplined reading of the Bible could give him.
It is not that anything that Nicodemus was doing was wrong in itself – rather it was to be commended but his knowledge of God was incomplete without personal knowledge and experience.
Without him knowing it explicitly Nicodemus was drawn to the enigmatic man Jesus because he recognised in him the wisdom of God. Jesus was making the “name” of God, the whole character of God known and Jesus could do so because Jesus had been born of the Spirit.
Remember Jesus’ experience at the river Jordan when John baptised Him? The Spirit of God came upon him in bodily form like a Dove.
The result of this spiritual experience was that Jesus would here those words. “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
When we too are born again we hear the same words resting and felt burrowing into our hearts; Lynne, Rachel, Jim, Martin, Kitty, John, “you are my child, the beloved; with you I am well pleased”.
Thus you are born again as a Spiritual child of God and Spiritual friend and brother of Jesus.
This is both a great gift and privilege and also a great responsibility. To be a part of that family, bearing the family name, means that you should never, nor should you ever want to, bring shame or reproach to your family. Nor would you want to disown your Family.
There is a well known phrase used by parents to children that goes “When you’re under my roof you live by my rules”.
So it is with the family of God, except that we choose to follow the way out of a love that comes from within. We should pay no attention to the ways of the world, what seems current and trendy in terms of morals, virtue and behaviour, especially in terms of sex and relationships generally.
If we claim to be a part of God’s family then we should be exhibiting that family likeness in those areas of our lives.
You can experience the power and presence of God in many and various ways. Jesus uses the phrase “by water and the Spirit” which immediately conjures up the image of baptism. So at first it seems clear – you experience the Holy Spirit through baptism. But then Jesus goes on....the Spirit is like the wind, and cannot be pinned down and examined, or forced into a box, but nevertheless the Spirit is the key active person of God so missing from so many lives.
It is the Holy Spirit that brings us into that living relationship, that confirms to us that we are children of God.