Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
The first baptism I ever performed was on a recently retired man. He had been married to a Lutheran for 40 years at that point. He had attended confirmation classes with his three sons and after each of them the pastor had offered to baptize him. Each time he had declined. Finally, I have no clear idea why, shortly after I started my first call, he said he was ready. His wife cried. She had been praying for this for their whole married life. We celebrated this decision with some great whiskey. A few days later he, his family, and some friends were there for his baptism. He went on to become a wonderful member, generous with his time and wisdom. I miss him.
Jesus meets at night with Nicodemus, a member of the Pharisees. Nicodemus is afraid of what others will say. He has questions, but Jesus seems to say that he is rather thick about some of this. In the middle of the Gospel, he rather timidly expresses some doubts about the Sanhedrin’s desire to have Jesus killed (Jn. 7:50). By the end of the Gospel, this same Nicodemus will join Joseph of Arimathea in openly and bravely claiming Jesus’ body from the cross. He has changed remarkably over the course of this book John has written, but it took some time. Too often we imagine that coming to faith is an instantaneous thing. It surely is that way for some folks, much more often, however, it happens slowly, almost imperceptibly. Nicodemus took quite a while. Jesus is very patient. The man I baptized not long after I arrived at my first parish had been invited and loved into Christianity over a long marriage. It took time. Do you have a friend whom you pray that he or she may come to faith? Be patient with Jesus. Love that person today as you are able. Jesus uses you, your words, your deeds, to call and call. His Spirit is gentle. It may take a while. You will not argue them into the faith. You might love them into the faith.