26 April, Tuesday — Don’t drop the ball!

Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Eastertide

Acts 4:32-37
Jn 3:7-15

The wind blows wherever it pleases; you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.

I’m not entirely sure why the verse above (John 3:8) jumped out at me, nor why I was drawn to Nicodemus in the Gospel, but perhaps, that is the idea. Inspiration for these reflections strike me in interesting ways and at interesting times, including what amounted to a rewrite just before I had to upload it. Never a dull moment. In short, the Spirit of God cannot be controlled. We do not know when, where, how, or why God speaks to us. But He certainly does. And when God speaks to us, what do we do in response?

Even as we are born of the Spirit, are we attuned to the Spirit? Some of us are not really, or at all, tuned in, but I will not go into how we can become more aware of God’s promptings — there are better resources out there for this. What I will ramble on about is how we respond. The idea that we need to respond implies that there is an action that must come after the prompt. An action by us, which can be personal and affects only us, or it can in turn affect other people, or both.  

A friend shared with me that the Gospel written by John shows Jesus as God. Unlike the other 3, John lays it bare right from the start that Jesus is the Son of God, is Divine, and that He saves. So this Gospel leans very heavily on the faith of believers — the people who have seen, followed, believed, and were touched by the Truth. They then went on to respond in various ways after their conversions.

John chapter 3 opens with Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a Pharisee and leader of the Jews. He was likely a member of the Sanhedrin and highly respected in the community and amongst the Jewish leaders. He sought out Jesus at night and referred to Jesus as “Rabbi”. Disclaimer — I am no theologian or bible scholar. I am just letting my imagination run a little wild here by wondering why Nicodemus had to look for Jesus at night. Perhaps he didn’t want to create a fuss by seeking Jesus out in the day while everyone watched and gossiped. Perhaps he had his own personal curiosities that he thought would not go down well with his fellow community leaders. Perhaps, like most of us, ‘Late At Night’ was the only free slot on his schedule.  

Anyway, Nicodemus and Jesus spoke. Nicodemus was even admonished by Jesus for not knowing about being born again in the Spirit. Nicodemus seemed to take this all in his stride and did not become offended. John does not mention him until a few chapters later, but I would like to think he pondered his encounter with Jesus, both the man and his words. In chapter 7, the chief priests and Pharisees, who really did not want a Messiah upending society as they knew it, tried to get Jesus arrested by claiming that Jesus was pretending to be the Messiah as Messiahs did not come from Galilee like Jesus did. Very significantly, Nicodemus spoke up against his peers in an attempt to obtain a fair trial for Jesus. His protest was immediately shut down, of course.

In chapter 19, after Jesus’ death, Nicodemus was again present. He brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes and helped to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. Nicodemus as good as openly showed his support for Jesus at a time when only a handful of his followers remained.  

Nicodemus seems like a minor character, appearing only three times in one Gospel. But Nicodemus’ conversion can teach us something. Nicodemus met with Jesus and perhaps that was when the Truth dawned on him. In his discussion with Jesus about how the Spirit moves, Nicodemus himself was moved. He then went on to put his new convictions where his mouth was, by standing up to his fellow chief priests to defend Jesus. The easy and safe thing for someone of his standing to do would have been to go with the crowd; but instead, he stepped out of line. In the end, he was there in view of everyone, helping to retrieve Jesus’ body and contributing a considerable amount of spices for preparing His body for burial. Indeed, the Spirit blows where He will, and Nicodemus must have heard and accepted the prompting.  

For a Pharisee, and possibly a member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus sure risked a lot by going against his own council members to defend Jesus. It stands to reason that he had to have seen the Truth as the Truth, otherwise why would he stick his neck out if he wasn’t sure about Jesus? Can we be like Nicodemus? If we say we believe in God, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit, can we follow the prompting of the Spirit and go where it leads us? If we have personally encountered God, can we accept what He asks of us? We do not need to go on to do anything groundbreaking or earth shattering. All we need to do is listen, obey, and change.  

The prompting of the Spirit is always around, and yet also easily missed or dismissed. This can take any form — something you saw or read, a comment or request by someone, part of a prayer or reading, etc. Each prompt, each call, is a call to conversion and a call to action. Through our actions, we can communicate and engage with others, possibly leading to their own conversions. Every now and again, we do catch a prompting. And when we do, like Nicodemus, let’s try not to drop that ball.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Felicia Zou)

Prayer: Father, help us to listen for Your soft prompting, and help us to follow it and to do Your will. Give us the courage to step up and step out whenever we are called to do so. Give us the grace to know that it is by Your strength that we can do all things.  

Thanksgiving: Father, we thank You for the gift of Your Spirit that guides us always. We thank You for the gift of Your love for us.

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