There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 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.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 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?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. -John 3:1-3
Nicodemus was a seeker of the Truth. He saw a spirituality in Jesus that was new and unique. He wanted to better himself. He wanted to know more about Jesus’ doctrines so that he could be a better person. However, Jesus basically told him that better was just not good enough.
Jesus did not wait for Nicodemus to ask his question. He knew immediately the nature of the visit. Jesus did not preach a message of detachment from the world. This was the teaching of the Buddha. He too agreed with Jesus that better was not good enough. However, Jesus gave a very different answer to the spiritual problem. He told Nicodemus that one needs to be born of the spirit. It was contrary to detachment from the world. Being born of the spirit was coming back to this life with all its problems and injustices with new understanding of reality. Christianity does not promise a change in the political and social structures of the world. There was very little said of social reforms in the gospels. However, it does talk about the person being transformed to see reality in a new Light. We cannot follow or even understand the teachings of Jesus without this new understanding. Those who limit themselves to doctrinal understanding of the faith are settling for a better spirituality or religion. Jesus tells us that this is not enough; better is just not good enough.
This is true in all aspects. In our work, the homeless would not leave the streets for better conditions. Better for them is not worth leaving the streets. They desire something new. In fact, people in all phases of life are always talking about change. They are always talking about the new or reinventing themselves. It seems like we know instinctively that we need something new. The old has shown itself to be lacking. However, we cannot create the new within ourselves. Churches or any religion cannot give or even usher the new. This is something beyond us. We cannot domesticate the forces that bring about the new.
Jesus said: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”(John 3:8)
The new that transforms our hearts and minds can only be done through the Spirit. No one has monopoly of the Spirit. The best we can do is to prepare ourselves for the Spirit. If we invest our time and energy in the old things or values that keep us imprison in the things of this reality, then we won’t be aware of the presence of the Spirit. Those who are seeking the new are aware of the futility of the old. These will understand the words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes when he professed, “Vanity of vanities; All is vanity.” Seeing the futility of the old is really the prerequisite that helps us prepare for the new.
We cannot produce the new within ourselves or others. All we can do is prepare ourselves to meet the One who can transform us from within. The preparation is knowing that we are part of the new. Many in the streets have seen the futility of the old but they do not know that they can be part of the new. However, the new has a place of them. This is the good news. The New is open to all but only few seek it.