March 8, 2020, the Second Sunday in Lent. A reflection on John 3:1-17.
“How can these things be?” (v9b). Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a teacher of the law but apparently, he did not know or understand what Jesus was talking about.
I beg to disagree with some people saying that Nicodemus did not understand Jesus because Jesus was talking about spiritual things which means it is something, mystical or mysterious which seems to be a magical one and only those living in these mystically mysteriously magical things could understand what Jesus was saying. Interpreting and teaching people like this would bring many people far from and outside of our reality and the reality that was during the time of Jesus.
The thing is that it was hard for Nicodemus to understand Jesus because in the first place Jesus was and is among the common people, the poor, and the impoverished while he is in the stature of a Pharisee. There was a gap between Nicodemus and Jesus religiously, politically and economically in the contextual reality. Religiously, Jesus did not agree with the pharisaic way of instructions on the law of Moses and even admonished the people to follow what the Pharisees said but never to follow what they did as they never follow what the preached (cf.Mt.23:3). Pharisees were very influential in the politics and state affairs and even instrumental to the entry of the Roman Empire as they compete with the Sadducees while Jesus identified himself with the anawim – the poor but remained faithful to God which also defines the economic situation of Jesus.
Jesus answer, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (v3) is a challenge to Nicodemus that he can only enter the kingdom if he changes his ways, converted and become among the anawim. For those who remained faithful to God are assured of eternal life – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (v16)
Was there a conversion in Nicodemus? There can be. During the discussion on the Sanhedrin’s plot against Jesus, he stood and spoke out in favor of due process for Jesus, in John 7:51, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him (and) to find out what he has been doing?” Nicodemus has had the idea of justice. In John 19:39, He accompanied Joseph of Arimathea who buried Jesus body in a vacant tomb and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. By this act, Nicodemus identifies himself with Jesus and his ministry to the marginalized in the society.
You want to be born from above or to be born again? Go and be converted into becoming one among the anawim – the poor and marginalized to whom Jesus identified himself with. Go and work for justice and peace to those downtrodden, ask for due process to those who are killed by the government’s war against the poor covered by the anti-drug war – the government’s war against indigenous peoples covered by the war against insurgents but only to wiped them out of their ancestral lands to give it to trans-national corporations of mining and agro-plantations. Go and work against the worship in the altars of imperialist globalization and neo-liberalization enjoyed by the oligarchs and the world’s few rich people and their local cohorts – the bureaucrat capitalists occupying the leadership of the governments’ executive, legislative and judiciary branches who are the modern Pharisees.
Until next for the Third Sunday in Lent