|Dino Reichmuth Photo: Jesus was 'woke'|
This passage from John 3: 1-17, where Jesus speaks to Nicodemus may be the crux of the entire message of Jesus Christ. He speaks of the need to understand simple truths, and the takeaway is his proclamation that his presence on Earth will bring eternal life to all who believe. That’s it...
But wait, there’s more, as they say in those late-night infomercials.
The message that Jesus is giving to Nicodemus is one where we find Jesus in a moment of Zen. Christ talks of things that some may interpret as being ‘born again.’ Christ says, “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 most amazing part of this passage is what follows. Jesus goes on to wax lyrical: “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”
My favorite comic relief comes from Nicodemus, who asks him “How can these things be?” Jesus gives us a true Seinfeld-ian moment when he says: Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?” The first thing that comes to mind for the ultimate Seinfeld buff is the classic: “And YOU want to be my Latex Salesman?” He goes on, almost exasperated, to say, “If I tell you about the things that are happening here and now on Earth, and you don’t believe, how can you believe what I’m trying to tell you about heavenly things?!”
The most famous of passages follows in John 3:16 in this text for Trinity Sunday. “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.” This is as good as the saying: “Jesus explains it all for you.” There it is in a nutshell, folks. The whole gospel laid out in one short paragraph.
How simple is the understanding of the enlightened among us, who may understand the feeling of being born of the Spirit. It may take a lifetime of understanding to truly know the feeling of enlightenment, where we are truly born of the Spirit.
I cannot help sympathizing with Nicodemus, who is limited in his understanding of Jesus’ enlightened spirit. There are times in our lives when we have not understood a difficult passage or text, in the Bible or in any aspect of life, only to read or hear it with fresh eyes and to suddenly become enlightened as we gain a new understanding of what the content means.
The kids now say, “You have to be ‘woke.’ It’s hard to describe it, but one of the best examples I know comes from a movie. In one of my favorite scenes in “The Miracle Worker”, we see Helen Keller as a child who is pathetic and angry and struggling against the world. Mute, blind and unable to communicate, there were no connections for her. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, (played by Anne Bancroft in the film version), patiently worked with her to try and teach the child how to communicate. Her teacher signed the alphabet, and words for water and hundreds of everyday items, yet Helen was still unable to make the connections. The moving and cathartic scene where Helen Keller DOES make the connections to the sign of ‘water’, and then realized she would able to communicate with other people is one of the most spiritually connected scenes ever filmed. The kids would say, she was ‘woke’
We are not always woke to difficult content in our daily lives. I am one of those who freely admits that I often have limited understanding of cultural waves, and the dawning of new attitudes and cultural shifts. But we need to keep at least open minds as we try and muddle through the technological haze of life in these times. Baby boomers often find it particularly difficult to accept the fact that we will never return to the days of the Golden Age of Television or the life of the fifties and sixties, before computers and the internet went mainstream.
Helen Keller is an example of one among us who was enlightened. It wouldn’t matter to her what age or era she lived in, for her world existed outside the realm of material objects and time. She didn’t need to see things or hear them to understand what it takes to become born in spirit. Perhaps if we took the time to appreciate the natural world, and tried to comprehend things using fresh eyes, we may glean some understanding of the message out of time that Jesus wanted to convey. “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”