THE SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR
Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?’ (John 3:10) It is interesting that John, the Gospel author, has just told us that Jesus knew what was in everyone (2:25), now tells us that he was astonished that Nicodemus did not understand what the Lord was telling him. Nicodemus had given his life to the study of the Scriptures. Surely they had announced that God would give his great gift of the Spirit to his people so that their hearts could be changed and renewed?
Yet when Jesus told him he must be born of the Spirit he had no idea what he was talking about. What made him forget or become so dull that he could not grasp what God was saying? As a Pharisee, Nicodemus was a religious leader, someone in the know, someone who had religious insight and certainty. It made him secure in a way that would find the idea of wind blowing where it willed disturbing for it would imply loss of control, the very opposite of secure.
The prophets, Joel in particular, had said that God would pour out his Spirit not just on the religious leaders, but on all people (Joel 2:28). Perhaps Nicodemus did not want to hear that either, for that too would undermine his position of authority and security.
Not being in control is a frightening thing so without even realising it, we build up ways and means of avoiding that risk. Today more than ever, we value independ- ence and personal autonomy. We expect to have control over our own lives and this makes it very difficult to let go or hand over the reins to someone else. Even though we know in our heads that God is for us, that he loves us unconditionally and that his plans for us are good and not evil, we still hold on to our independence. This closes us up and prevents us from following Jesus wholeheartedly.
It stops us from taking risks in faith. It hinders us from trusting the Spirit to guide and lead us where he wants to take us. Our world shrinks and our vision is atrophied. It is said that the medieval astronomers of the western world did not see any new stars for centuries because they did not believe there were any out there. Imagine! They had their instruments trained on the heavens and they missed so much. How like Nicodemus. How like us when we cling to certainties and refuse to take the risk of faith.
Theological certainties are important and it is important to know. We need to know our Bibles. We need to have confidence in our Bible teachers. We need to know that we belong to a community of believers and that there is a Christian way to live. But we also need to be willing to be open to God’s Spirit blowing us where he wills, showing us new things and living in new ways that proclaim the transforming presence of Jesus.