“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
It was late one night when a Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus. Like many others, he had seen Jesus teaching. He had seen the miracles. He knew something was different about this man, and he had to know. Who was he? Who was he really?
In the course of the conversation that night Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be “born again.” (So much for Jesus making everything easy to understand, right?) To understand the force of this statement, we need to put ourselves in the place of Nicodemus. You see, for us, the term “born again” has all kinds of images and theological meaning attached to it. For Nicodemus, he had never heard of such a thing before. What could this all mean? What on earth is Jesus talking about?
What we often forget about this exchange is that Jesus is not finished after telling Nicodemus that he needs to be “born again.” Jesus offers a glimpse of the mystery of what He is talking about. “The wind blows wherever it pleases...”
What Jesus has to say is brilliant... and mysterious. The term for “wind” and the term for “spirit” are one and same word – pneuma. What Jesus is saying to Nicodemus is this: The ways of God are mysterious, as mysterious as the wind. You can’t fully explain it; you can’t fully grasp it. Trying to fully comprehend the spirit (pneuma) is like trying to fully comprehend the wind (pneuma).
Somewhere along the line, we’ve fallen in love with certainty. We feel that in order to “know” something we need to have an ironclad, bomb-proof understanding of the thing. Questions that are left unanswered are seen as quests to be conquered. What results is a reduction of mystery to formula.
What I find fascinating is that Nicodemus walks away from Jesus without a clear understanding of what Jesus is talking about, and that’s okay with Jesus. He doesn’t walk away with a three-step formula for being “born again.” The story, much like the point Jesus is getting at, is unresolved, a mystery that forces Nicodemus, as well as the reader, to walk away... thinking, pondering, wondering, searching.
Faith is a lifelong journey of discovery. Just when you awaken to a new understanding of the depth of who God is, you discover there is something still beyond. As one theologian put it, “God is the beyond that is in our midst.” It’s okay not to have it all figured out. It’s okay not to have all the answers worked out in a nice and easy package.
Apparently, seeing faith as an open-ended quest is okay. It was for Jesus and Nicodemus.
If we had all the answers, it wouldn’t be called faith, now would it?
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1. Why is it that we are often uncomfortable with mystery?
2. Where are you wrestling with the mystery of who God is?
Isaiah 55:6-9; John 3:1-21
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