Monday of the Second Week of Easter
Jesus with the Pharisee named Nicodemus
Reading 1 ACTS 4:23-31
After their release Peter and John went back to their own people
and reported what the chief priests and elders had told them.
And when they heard it,
they raised their voices to God with one accord
and said, “Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth
and the sea and all that is in them,
you said by the Holy Spirit
through the mouth of our father David, your servant:
Why did the Gentiles rage
and the peoples entertain folly?
The kings of the earth took their stand
and the princes gathered together
against the Lord and against his anointed.
Indeed they gathered in this city
against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed,
Herod and Pontius Pilate,
together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
to do what your hand and your will
had long ago planned to take place.
And now, Lord, take note of their threats,
and enable your servants to speak your word
with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal,
and signs and wonders are done
through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook,
and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Responsorial Psalm PS 2:1-3, 4-7A, 7B-9
R. (see 11d) Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples utter folly?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the princes conspire together
against the LORD and against his anointed:
“Let us break their fetters
and cast their bonds from us!”
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
He who is throned in heaven laughs;
the LORD derides them.
Then in anger he speaks to them;
he terrifies them in his wrath:
“I myself have set up my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD.
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
this day I have begotten you.
Ask of me and I will give you
the nations for an inheritance
and the ends of the earth for your possession.
You shall rule them with an iron rod;
you shall shatter them like an earthen dish.”
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If then you were raised with Christ,
seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel JN 3:1-8
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
He came to Jesus at 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 are doing
unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to him,
“How can a man once grown old be born again?
Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?”
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and Spirit
he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
What is born of flesh is flesh
and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you,
‘You must be born from above.’
The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
John describes Nicodemus as a Pharisee. Sad to say, the Pharisees are in many ways the victims of bad press. By and large they were not the sourpusses, the spiritual killjoys, that they have sometimes been depicted to be. Simply put, and more than anything else, the Pharisees were people who sincerely desired to lead lives that were pleasing to God, that were consistent with his laws laid down in the Old Testament. They were moral, upright people. They were regular attenders in the synagogues. They were tithers. They would help little old ladies across the street (as long as it wasn’t a sabbath). In every respect they were model citizens—just the kind of people you would want to have as neighbors.
John further informs us that Nicodemus was not only a Pharisee, but that he was a religious leader, literally “a ruler of the Jews”. This suggests that he was actually a member of the Sanhedrin, a body that comprised within itself the highest legal, judicial and legislative authority among the Jews. He was one of a number of prominent and influential people who came to Jesus in the gospels, among them a centurion, a royal official, Lazarus of Bethany, the anonymous rich young ruler, Jairus the synagogue ruler, and Simon the Pharisee.
He came by night
John tells us that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. Now night and darkness are significant words in John’s gospel. In the opening chapter John has told us of Jesus, the eternal Word, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1:5). Jesus proclaims of himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (8:12). It was while it was still dark on the first Easter morning that Mary Magdalene, believing Jesus to be dead, went to his tomb (20:1). And perhaps most significantly of all, after Judas leaves the Passover supper in the upper room, John laconically remarks, “And it was night” (13:30).
So it was significant for John that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. And we need to ask ourselves, why? It may easily have been because the crowds that so regularly followed Jesus had dispersed. Things would definitely have been quieter and there would have been opportunity for a more in-depth conversation. It has been my experience that some of the most significant conversations in my life have taken place at night.
Yet I rather think there was a different reason that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night—and it was that he did not wish to be seen. To me this corresponds with Nicodemus as we meet him at two other points in John’s gospel. The first incident is in chapter 7. It is the Feast of Booths, or Succoth. Knowing that there are plots to do away with him, Jesus has gone to Jerusalem secretly, not even telling his brothers. Midway through the festival, however, he begins to teach in the Temple. Inevitably there is controversy over him but the Temple police hold back from arresting him. When the Pharisees criticize the police for their inaction, it is Nicodemus who stands up and asks, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” And that, for the moment at least, seems to be the end of the matter.
The final time we meet with Nicodemus is towards the end of the gospel. Jesus has died on the cross and Joseph of Arimathea has petitioned Pontius Pilate for his body. Then John tells us, “Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.” I think it is significant that John chooses to identify Nicodemus as the one who came to Jesus by night, under cover of darkness. It seems to me that, while Nicodemus had sympathy for Jesus, he was one that always stood in the shadows. He was never quite willing to come out into the light.
I suppose there is a parallel with Peter at this point, in his threefold denial of Jesus as he warmed himself in the courtyard of the high priest. Yet Peter we hear from again. He is reconciled and restored. He is filled with the Holy Spirit. He later answers the high priest and the Sanhedrin, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Nicodemus himself may well have been there at the time when Peter spoke. Yet we never hear from him again. He simply slips into the shadows whence he came.
The tragedy is that down through the centuries to our present day there have been many Nicodemuses, men and women who respect Jesus, who admire him. Yet whether it is for fear or some other reason, they find themselves unable to step out into the light and identify with him. So it is that as the chapter unfolds that John comments (and I believe with a deep sense of sorrow), “This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light…”
Born from above
So it is that under the shadows and with no one around Nicodemus begins by expressing his admiration for Jesus. “Rabbi…,” and even to use the term rabbi to a man who had no formal training and was his junior in every way was to show enormous respect. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God were with him.” To which Jesus gives the puzzling reply, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Jesus’ words are literally, “Amen, amen, I say to you…” They carry a solemnity and an earnestness to them that the English cannot convey.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” What was it that prompted these enigmatic words? The answer is to be found in the way that John introduces Nicodemus to us in the first verse. Literally it goes like this: “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus…” This is an odd way to describe someone in English, so most of our English translations have simplified it to something like what we see in our pew Bibles: “Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus…” But it is an odd turn of phrase in Greek also; and John has chosen to use it specifically because of what he has just finished saying in the previous paragraph, which if you read it literally, goes, “Jesus did not need anyone to testify about man, for he knew what was in man.”
Then he continues, “There was aman…”
What I can only conclude is that Jesus knew exactly what was going on in Nicodemus’ heart—and he chose to speak not to his words but directly to his heart. Remember that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. His whole life was dedicated to obedience to the Law. What Jesus was saying was, “Nicodemus, you have spent your entire life doing things for God. And tragically you have missed the point. It’s not about what you can do for God. It’s about what God wants to do in you.”
To see how focused Nicodemus was on doing things, you have only to look at his response: “Can one enter a second time into one’s mother’s womb and be born?” For him it was all about what he could do: his efforts, his hard work, his endeavors. And so Jesus drives the point home again. “Listen, Nicodemus, while I tell you another time: no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” As Tim Keller has put it, “I contributed nothing to my birth: I contribute nothing to my being born again.”
The Spirit blows
Jesus makes the same point again when he shifts from the mystery of birth to the mystery of the wind. “You hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going.” In both Hebrew and Greek the same word can be used to mean “wind” or “spirit”. No one can control the wind. Here in Minnesota we are reminded of that at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month. We cannot control the wind, but we can harness it. And we are reminded of that as we cross the prairie and see rows of enormous wind turbines.
In 2012 wind turbines in this country generated 140 million megawatt-hours of electrical power.
What Jesus was inviting Nicodemus to was to allow the Holy Spirit to blow through his life—to allow the Spirit to do in him what, even with the strictest obedience, even with the most valiant of efforts, he could never achieve for himself. Later in the New Testament we meet with another Pharisee who did take to heart what Jesus taught.
He wrote, If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus occupies a very special place in my own life as well. I first overheard it many years ago when I was a senior in high school. I had become involved in church and was trying to live a Christian life, but I always sensed that there was something missing. I had begun reading the New Testament and was several months into it when I arrived at this passage. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, it was as though he were speaking to me: “In very truth I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” It was on reading those words that I knelt and asked Jesus Christ to come into my life—and he became a reality for me in a way that he had never been before.
Nicodemus never came out of the shadows. But thank God that you and I have the opportunity to let him do his work in us. “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.”
Commentary on John 3:1-8 From Living Space
Today we go back to the early part of John’s gospel and begin reading chapter 3. In the coming Easter weeks we will be going through John’s gospel more or less in order.
Today we see the encounter between Jesus and a Pharisee who was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the governing council of the Jews. He was, then, a very highly placed official.
Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. This, on the one hand, indicates his fear of being seen by others but, on the other, probably also has a symbolic meaning. Religious man though he was, when he came to Jesus he was in a kind of spiritual darkness. His virtue is that he comes to seek light. Jesus, of course, is the Light of the World. (On the other hand, in the following chapter, the Samaritan woman will meet Jesus in the full blaze of the midday sun.)
Nicodemus begins by praising Jesus. No man, he says, could do the things that Jesus did if he did not come from God. (Given the fact that at this stage of John’s gospel Jesus has hardly begun his public life, it is odd that Nicodemus can make this statement. But it shows that the events described in this gospel are not to be taken with a strict chronology. This gospel is rather a set of themes about the role of Jesus for us and the world.)
Nicodemus sees in Jesus a prophet, a man of God but has yet to recognise the full identity of Jesus. Jesus counters by saying that no one can see the rule, the kingdom, of God unless “he is born from above” (or “born again” – both readings are possible and the meaning is basically the same). Though very common in the other gospels, the term ‘Kingdom of God’ is only used here in John (vv. 3 and 5). Its equivalent in the rest of John’s gospel is ‘life’. To be truly in the Kingdom of God, to be fully integrated in the Reign or Rule of God is to be fully alive.
Nicodemus hears Jesus literally. “How can a man be born again when he is old? Is he to return to his mother’s womb and start life all over again?” His misunderstanding gives Jesus the opportunity to lead Nicodemus to a deeper understanding. To be born again is to be born of “water and the Spirit”, a clear reference to Christian baptism. Flesh only produces flesh (as in natural birth) but the Spirit gives birth to spirit and that is the second birth we all need to undergo.
“You must all be begotten from above.” A statement directed to all and not just to Nicodemus.
And, once we are reborn in the Spirit, we let ourselves be led to where God wishes. “The wind blows where it will. You hear the sound it makes but you do not know where it comes from, or where it goes.” The ‘wind’, ‘breath’ of the Holy Spirit is the sole Guide for our lives. He brings about our renewal in his own way. The word for “wind” here is a word which also means “breath” and “spirit” [Greek, pneuma, pneuma].
Once we are guided by the Spirit we have put ourselves totally in God’s hands ready to be led wherever God wants us to go. This is the message which is being given to Nicodemus. He must be ready to move in a different direction from that which has guided his life up to this. This readiness will lead him to see in Jesus the Word of God.
We, too, wherever we happen to be right now must ever be ready for God, through his Spirit, to call us in a new direction and to follow his lead.
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
• The Gospel today presents part of the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus. Nicodemus appears several times in the Gospel of:
John (Jn 3, 1-13; 7, 50-52; 19, 39). He was a person who held a certain social position. He was a leader among the Jews and formed part of the supreme tribunal, called the Synedrium. In the Gospel of John, he represents the group of Jews who were pious and sincere, but who did not succeed in understanding everything which Jesus said and did. Nicodemus had heard about the signs and the wonderful things that Jesus did, and he was struck, amazed.
• John 3, 1: A man called Nicodemus. Shortly before the encounter of Jesus with Nicodemus, the Evangelist was speaking of the imperfect faith of certain persons who were interested only in the miracles of Jesus (Jn 2, 23-25). Nicodemus was one of these persons. He had good will, but his faith was still imperfect. The conversation with Jesus helped him to perceive that he has to advance in order to be able to deepen his faith in Jesus and in God.
• John 3, 2: 1st question of Nicodemus: the tension between what is old and what is new. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a prominent person among the Jews and with a good common sense. He went to meet Jesus at night and said to him: “Rabbì, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him”. Nicodemus gives an opinion of Jesus according to arguments which he, Nicodemus himself, has within himself. This is already important, but it is not enough to know Jesus. The signs which Jesus works can arouse a person and awake in the person some interest. They can generate curiosity, but they do not generate greater faith. They do not make one see the Kingdom of God present in Jesus. For this reason it is necessary to advance, to take one more step. Which is this step?
• John 3, 3: The response of Jesus: “You must be born again!” In order that Nicodemus can perceive the Kingdom present in Jesus, he should be born again, from above. Anyone who tries to understand Jesus only from his arguments alone does not succeed to understand him. Jesus is much greater. If Nicodemus remains only with the catechism of the past in his hand, he will not succeed to understand Jesus. He should open his hand completely. He should set aside his own certainties and his security and abandon himself totally. He should make a choice between, on the one hand, the security which comes from the organized religion with its laws and traditions and, on the other hand, launch himself to the adventure of the Spirit which Jesus proposes to him.
• John 3, 4: 2nd question of Nicodemus: How can anyone who is already old be born again? Nicodemus does not give in and returns with the same question with a certain irony: “How can a man be born when he is old? Is it possible to go back into the womb again and be born again?” Nicodemus takes the words of Jesus literally and, because of this, he understands nothing. He should have perceived that the words of Jesus had a symbolic sense.
• John 3, 5-8: The answer of Jesus: To be born from above, to be born from the Spirit. Jesus explains what it means: to be born from above or to be born again. It is “To be born from water and the Spirit”. Here we have a very clear reference to Baptism. Through the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus, the Evangelist invites us to review our Baptism. He gives the following words: “What is born of human nature is human, what is born of the Spirit is Spirit”. Flesh means that which is born only from our ideas. What is born from us is within our reach. To be born of the Spirit is another thing!
• A key to understand better the words of Jesus on the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew language uses the same word to say wind and spirit. As we have said the wind has within it a route, a direction: the North wind, the wind from the South. The Spirit of God has a route, a project, which already manifested itself in creation. The Spirit was present in creation under the form of a bird which flew over the waters of the chaos (Jn 1, 2). Year after year, he renews the face of the earth and sets nature through the sequence of the seasons (Ps 104, 30; 147, 18). The same is also present in history.
• All along the centuries the hope grew that the Spirit of God would have oriented the Messiah in the realization of God’s project (Is 11, 1-9) and it would have descended upon all the people of God (Ez 36, 27; 39, 29; Is 32, 15; 44, 3). The great promise of the Spirit appears in various ways in the prophets of the exile: the vision of the dry bones, risen by the force of the Spirit of God (Ez 37, 1-14); the effusion of the Spirit of God on all the people (Jl 3, 1-5); the vision of the Messiah-Servant who will be anointed by the Spirit to establish the right on earth and announce the Good News to the poor (Is 42, 1; 44, 1-3; 61, 1-3). They perceive a future, in which people, always more and more, are reborn thanks to the effusion of the Spirit (Ez 36, 26-27; Ps 51, 12; cf. Is 32, 15-20).
• The Gospel of John uses many images and symbols to signify the action of the Spirit. Just like in creation (Gn 1, 1), in the same way the Spirit descended upon Jesus “like a dove, coming from heaven” (Jn 1, 32). It is the beginning of the new creation! Jesus pronounces the words of God and communicates to us His Spirit (Jn 3, 34). His words are spirit and life (Jn 6, 63). When Jesus announces that he is going to the Father, he says that he will send another Consoler, another defender, so that he can remain with us. He is the Holy Spirit (Jn 14, 16-17). Through his Passion, death and resurrection, Jesus obtains for us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism all of us receive this same Spirit of Jesus (Jn 1, 33). When he appears to the Apostles, he breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit!” (Jn 20, 22). The Spirit is like the water which springs up from persons who believe in Jesus (Jn 7, 37-39; 4, 14).
The first effect of the action of the Spirit in us is reconciliation: “If you forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins they are retained” (Jn 20, 23). The Spirit is given to us in order to be able to remember and understand the full meaning of the words of Jesus (Jn 14, 26; 16, 12-13). Animated by the Spirit of Jesus we can adore God any place (Jn 4, 23-24). Here is realized the liberty of the Spirit of whom Saint Paul speaks: “Where the Spirit is, there is liberty” (2 Co 3, 17).
• How do you react before the new things which present themselves; like Nicodemus or do you accept God’s surprises?
• Jesus compares the action of the Holy Spirit with the wind (Jn 3, 8). What does this comparison reveal to me about the action of the Spirit of God in my life? Have you already had some experience which has given you the impression of being born again?
I will bless Yahweh at all times,
his praise continually on my lips.
I will praise Yahweh from my heart;
let the humble hear and rejoice. (Ps 34,1-2)
When we read of the courage of Peter and John in proclaiming the gospel with such boldness, we wonder where they got such power of witnessing from. After being arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, threatened and warned, then released, they continued undeterred to proclaim the Good News about Jesus Christ. The greater the opposition from the authorities, the more they were emboldened to proclaim about Jesus, without fear of man or for their lives. Most of us would succumb to opposition. How many of us can withstand fierce criticisms of our Catholic beliefs, especially with regard to morality when the secular world attacks us? We are afraid to be unpopular. Few would risk their reputation in the world, tolerate being misunderstood and ridiculed. Going to jail and losing our family is not something we are willing to sacrifice for Jesus and our faith. But the apostles and the early Christians were ever ready.
What is the source of their strength and motivation if the not the power of the Holy Spirit? Jesus in the gospel told Nicodemus that if we want to enter the Kingdom of God, we must be reborn again in the Holy Spirit. He said, “I tell you most solemnly, unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This Kingdom of God, unlike what the Jews thought, is not so much an earthly territorial spatial kingdom. It is the rule of God in our hearts. Great things happen to anyone who allows the rule of God to happen in his or her life. To enter the Kingdom is to live by and under the power of God’s rule.
That was what the apostles prayed in the early Church. They saw themselves under the rule of God. “They lifted up their voice to God all together, ‘Master, it is you who made heaven and earth and sea, and everything in them.’” First and foremost, they acknowledged that God is the supreme ruler and the creator. Everything is under His rule. God is therefore sovereign in all things. Quoting from the psalm, they recognized the fulfillment of the prophecy of King David when he said, “Why this arrogance among the nations, these futile plots among the peoples? Kings on earth setting out to war, princes making an alliance, against the Lord and against his Anointed.” Applying this opposition to Jesus, they said, “This is what has come true: in this very city Herod and Pontius Pilate made an alliance with the pagan nations and the peoples of Israel, against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, but only to bring about the very thing that you in your strength and your wisdom had predetermined should happen.” So nothing is not within the radar of God.
No matter what happens, God is in charge. Again quoting from the psalm, the early Christians saw how God was supreme over all peoples and that nothing could derail the plan of God for humanity. The psalmist said, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord is laughing them to scorn. Then he will speak in his anger, his rage will strike them with terror. ‘It is I who have set up my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’” True enough, this prophecy is fulfilled in Christ. He was ridiculed, mocked, wrongly condemned as a criminal but the authorities on earth could not bind Him. God raised Him from the dead and proved His enemies wrong.
How, then, can we enter into the heart of God if not through His Holy Spirit? This was what the Lord told Nicodemus. Jesus said, “Unless a man is born through water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God: what is born of the flesh is flesh; what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” So it is through baptism that we are reborn in the Holy Spirit. Baptism has always been the ordinary means when God would fill His people with His Holy Spirit. He comes to dwell in us in the Holy Spirit and recreates us as His children and makes us into a new creation.
The Holy Spirit is the power of God. He is the force of God. Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases; you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.” With the Holy Spirit, God works beyond human calculation and our limitations. The Holy Spirit can empower us, enlighten us, and give us the gift of speech and eloquence as He did to the uneducated apostles when they could argue and defend their position confidently and convincingly before the educated scholars of religion. Instead of putting faith in themselves, they put their faith in God. This is what the responsorial psalm says, “Blessed are they who put their trust in God.”
The Holy Spirit also leads us to Jesus. In their prayer to God, they said, “Lord, take note of their threats and help your servants to proclaim your message with all boldness, by stretching out your hand to heal and to work miracles and marvels through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” The disciples were fully aware that whatever they did or said, it was never from their own strength or their capacity. They were exercising the ministry in the name of Jesus. The miracles and healings they worked were never attributed to themselves but always in the name of the Lord. The Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Jesus, continued to work in their ministry. That they could perform the same miracles that Jesus did, proved beyond doubt that He had risen and that He lived and reigned in the hearts of His disciples. As Nicodemus said, “’Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who comes from God; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.”
So we need to be connected with the Holy Spirit if we are to do what the apostles did. We need to be born again in the Holy Spirit. Like Nicodemus, many of us are weak and timid in our faith. We read that he came in the dark to meet Jesus so that he would not be seen by others, especially his fellow rabbis for fear of losing his position and credibility. His faith in Jesus was not perfect but he was a sincere seeker of truth. He did not believe in making judgment without first clarifying and coming into personal contact with the Lord. He believed that judgment must be fair and just. Indeed, he came into the defence of Jesus when the chief priests and Pharisees sought to have Jesus arrested. He said, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” (Jn 7:51)
What is admirable about Nicodemus is his humility to learn from others even though he himself was a very learned rabbi. He knew the scriptures well. But unlike his fellow colleagues, he was not afraid of Jesus’ popularity undermining his position and status in the eyes of the people. He came to the Lord to learn. He did not allow his prejudice or study to be docile to people who thought differently. He was not defensive of his ideas or beliefs. If only we can be more like Nicodemus, we too would be able to experience the power of the Holy Spirit. Pride and skepticism are always the obstacles to encounter the dynamism of the Holy Spirit. In my ministry, whenever I pray for the release of the Holy Spirit, I always encounter resistance from people. Many lack the faith that the Holy Spirit as experienced by the early Church is still the reality in our lives. So they are cynical about the Holy Spirit and the gifts that come with the bestowal of the Spirit. Some make fun of those who pray in tongues or receive healing miracles. But for those who open themselves up in faith, in surrender and in humility, they truly experience the release of the Holy Spirit in their lives. No longer do they doubt the power of the Holy Spirit and the reality of the Risen Lord.
If you feel powerless in witnessing to the Lord or are timid in sharing Jesus with others, it is clear that you are not conscious of the Holy Spirit at work in you. You are using your own strength and human reasoning. This is where we need to pray for an awakening of the Holy Spirit. Get someone to pray over you in faith so that you can feel once again the Holy Spirit in your heart as you experience joy, love, peace and courage. Most of all, you feel that you are confident and able to do your work and ministry well. We must learn from the apostles. “As they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the word of God boldly.”