John 2:23-3:15 (NRSV)
When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone. Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by 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 do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 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.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Lent is often seen as a time a reflection and spiritual renewal; we are tasked with looking back and ruminating on our lives – within the church as well as outside of it – and exploring how we can renew our faith. In this passage Nicodemus is struggling with the idea of how one can be reborn; physically that is clearly not possible. Christ reminds him, and us, that physical rebirth is not the point, but rather one must seek out a renewal of the spirit, a spiritual renaissance of sorts. At the end of the passage we are given the key to that rebirth. “So must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” In order to truly be reborn and be part of the kingdom of God, we must “be born from above.” We must be willing to accept Christ and make a fundamental internal change that is reflected by our external actions.
The Lenten season offers us the opportunity to pursue our own spiritual renewal through prayer, reflection, deeds – however you choose to seek out Christ in your life – and the story of Nicodemus reminds us that no matter what our past may be, we are part of the kingdom of God through our acceptance of Christ.
Heavenly Father, during this Lenten season guide us as we seek to renew our faith and remind ourselves that the path to your kingdom lies through our acceptance of you into our lives. In your name we pray. Amen.