I want to start by looking at Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul is telling the Romans about Abraham, the father of the Jewish faith. Jews believed it was their physical relationship to Abraham that made them heirs of God’s Kingdom. Paul talks about it being about faith.
Abraham was not accepted by God because he was a law abiding person, in fact as I said last week, there was no law until Moses, so Abraham was not obedient to a law, but obedient to a request. He believed God’s promises and followed God’s lead, even though he didn’t know where he was going. Paul says that anyone who does what Abraham did is Abraham’s child – a child by faith. Therefore all those of faith, those who believe, receive the promises made to Abraham.
It is important to remember that faith is about believing in that which we hope for, but cannot prove.
So in the gospel we see Nicodemus come to meet Jesus. We know he is important to John’s message as he gets a name. In fact Nicodemus appears three times in John’s Gospel. His journey, like Thomas’, is for the reader’s benefit. This first interaction sees Nicodemus come out of curiosity. He, with others, believe God is with Jesus and therefore they want to know more.
Cryptically, Jesus replies, “…‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’” (v3). Jesus is saying that seeing the kingdom of God is about a spiritual birth. Nicodemus and his friends do not see, and believe, because they are Jewish or pharisees, but because the Spirit has shown them, and anyone who has the Spirit will believe.
To receive the Spirit is to enter into life from a new perspective – one not guided by the human knowledge, or human laws, but guided by God’s Spirit. This requires us to let go of everything we have been given and taught about who we are, how we understand others, and treat them, what we believe makes us a meaningful and successful human being. We look to be guided by something we believe is in the universe, though we cannot see it or prove that it is real.
We have all entered into this belief, the extent to which we allow ourselves to be guided by it is our choice. The more we believe, the more we will be guided.
Fasting/suffering puts us in place where our human knowledge does not help us. Where to survive requires us to see life differently. Many want the benefit of the faith, without having to have a lot of faith. It is understandable, and forgivable by God.
I believe that the lack of faith is not the sad part. Faith is about living in God’s Kingdom. What we see of it is related to our belief in it. Not trusting in God’s promise and therefore limiting what we see of God’s Kingdom, that is the sad thing.