“Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, 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 3:7–8
SEEING AND ACCEPTING THE SPIRITUAL WINDS OF FAITH
On this dark night near Jerusalem, Nicodemus is struggling to understand the message of God. Nicodemus was from the ruling class of the first-century Judean society. He had nearly everything; wealth, a membership in the Sanhedrin, and social status. Yet here he was, trying to learn what Jesus had to offer. Nicodemus felt compelled to find out more about Jesus, but was trapped in a life of privilege. Like many of us he had a yearning for God, and deep in his soul he knew Jesus was the answer. Torn between the trappings of his life and the desire to know God, he visits Jesus.
However, Nicodemus is struggling, and he does not get what Jesus is saying. All that he had and knew was at risk, preventing his full comprehension of what Jesus had to say. Knowing this, Jesus was frank and to the point.
Jesus’s point compares the Spirit of God to the wind. God directs both. Jesus is simply telling Nicodemus that if he was with God or born from above, then he would know that the wind or life is not for him to control. Those in commune with God or born from above understand the wind and the Spirit. He is also telling Nicodemus that he is trapped in the ways of the world. Matthew Henry, the famous seventeenth-century theologian, explains it this way: “Thus the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness to the natural man. Many think that cannot be proved, which they cannot believe.” Nicodemus is at a crossroads in his life. Does he accept Jesus’s answer, which threatens his wealth, power, and status, or does he return to his life and still have a thirst for God that cannot be satisfied by the natural life?
Those of us peering into this story know the choice Nicodemus should make. A test that he must take in the school of life that has only one answer. Perhaps we feel like screaming out, Choose the wind! Almost as if we are watching a science fiction movie and we are encouraging the main character to not go into the dark room. We all know the answer and what we believe we would do.
This however, is the same question we are also asked every day, sometimes every hour. Do we choose the comfort of our life or choose the wind? Nicodemus has a lot to give up. Accepting Jesus posed a threat to all he had obtained in his life. To embrace the message of Jesus threatened all that Nicodemus had achieved through the world.
C.S. Lewis, the great English writer of the twentieth century, had spent his late teens and early twenties angry at God. As he stated, “I was angry with God for not existing.” An atheist for an extended period, he continually wrestled with God. He found church boring and religion a chore. His belief was that if God existed, he would not have designed a world “so frail and faulty as we see.”
Lewis was a member of the Oxford University community, surrounded by people like Yeats and Tolkien. He was part of the intellectual elite of England during the early part of the twentieth century. Like Nicodemus he could not buy into the winds of God. Like Nicodemus his wrestling with God eventually ended because God became the only answer to a lifelong yearning.
He wrote his own conversion story, where he states: “You must picture me alone in Magdalen [College, Oxford], night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him who I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted God was God, and knelt and prayed; perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” The searching had ended. Encouraged by his friends, like J.R. Tolkien, he was changed and reborn.
Both Nicodemus and C. S. Lewis went on to become strong Christians. Lewis wrote Mere Christianity and was instrumental in helping the English people’s morale during the bombing of London in World War II. Many nights during World War II, he spoke to the people of London on the radio to soothe their hearts, while bombs rained down. Nicodemus eventually came out of the closet and acknowledged Jesus publicly. In fact, he was at the Crucifixion and worked with Joseph of Arimathea to provide the burial tomb and spices for Jesus.
Life gets in the way of God, as it did with Lewis and Nicodemus. But God pursues us. We fall and do not accept the winds of God, but God’s chase is never ending. Once we give in to our gift of grace, we are quickly whisked to life as another being. We are still “frail and faulty,” but our lives have changed.
The giving in to the compelling spirit of God, and satisfying our own yearning, can and will place us at a crossroads. The path we take can heal us, but it sometimes comes at a high earthly cost.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman