This Sunday is The Second Sunday in Lent, and the gospel lesson recounts when Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, visits Jesus “by night” to learn more about the new teacher/healer. He begins, “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.”
Yet, in the two verses that immediately precede this story, we read that many believed in Jesus “because they saw the signs that he was doing,” but Jesus “would not entrust himself to them.” So, when Nicodemus asserts confidently that they “know” Jesus has come from God because of the signs, perhaps we are seeing up front that Nicodemus’ approach and understanding are suspect.
Jesus responds by making it clear his focus is not on signs or teachings but on a complete transformation that can be described as a rebirth “from above.” Ah, but what is this birth from above?
Henry Ossawa Tanner painted a powerful image called “Nicodemus and Jesus on a Rooftop.” Ponder the image above—a study for Tanner’s painting—and wonder about how the scene unfolds. Where are they in the conversation? What is Nicodemus hearing? How do you imagine Jesus’ tone of voice? Does this image help you to live into the account that the Gospel is offering?