The night was dark and cold. His robe was plain, not ornate like those he usually wore, and the wind chilled the old man to the bone. But, he was sweating anyway.
He’d been standing in front of the closed door for more than a full minute. He wanted to knock, but he was scared. What was he going to ask the man? He didn’t know. He only knew in his heart that this man had the answers to questions he didn’t even know to ask.
He looked right and left, then knocked lightly. He waited. No answer. Was this the right house? His head was covered, yet he still feared someone might recognize him. With each passing moment, the risk increased. He had to get off the street. He knocked again, this time slightly harder. Still no answer. Finally, he banged on the door. After a moment he heard the board that barred the door being lifted, and the door slowly opened a crack.
Nicodemus could stand it no longer. He pushed the door open and burst into the room. Immediately, he was grabbed by the throat and forced against the wall. The strong hand that held him lifted him off the floor. Only his toes touched.
“Who are you?” yelled the burly man holding him by the throat.
Nicodemus couldn’t answer. He had no air. He could only stare at the face of the furious bearded man lifting him off the floor with his left hand, his right fist cocked, ready to break the old man’s jaw. Behind this furious man, Nicodemus saw a circle of strong young men.
“Who is he?” said someone.
“I recognize him,” said another. “He’s one of the wealthiest men in Jerusalem. He’s also one of the priests we drove out of the temple last week.”
“Peter, let him go.” The calm voice came from behind the circle of men.
Nicodemus felt the hand holding him relax, and he was slowly released. He slumped against the wall, holding his throat, coughing. After a moment, Nicodemus was finally able to speak again.
“I’m sorry. I know it’s late, and I apologize for the uninvited visit.”
“What do you want?” said the brutish man who had held him by the throat.
“I mean no harm.” The crowd surrounding him parted, and the man he was looking for, the man who had spoken to Caiaphas before throwing them out of the temple, stepped forward.
“Pete,” said Jesus as he placed a reassuring hand on Pete’s shoulder. “We must always welcome those who seek our company. He’s just scared of being seen with us. You’re the one they call Nicodemus, right?”
“Come and have a seat, Nick. John, could you get Nick and me some wine?”
Jesus bent to help the old man up and escorted him to the table in the middle of the room. John brought both men a cup of wine. Then retreated to the corner of the room to stand with Pete and the others, out of the way.
Nicodemus took a drink of the wine, both to soothe his throat and to give him time to think of a question. “Sir,” said Nicodemus, “I know you’ve come from God as a teacher. No one could do the things you do unless God was with him.”
You idiot, thought Nicodemus. That wasn’t even a question. It was a statement. Instead of continuing, Nicodemus waited for his statement, which called for no answer, to be answered.
Jesus looked down into his cup. He slowly swirled the liquid in a circle. Then, abruptly, his gaze shifted from the contents of the cup to his new guest.
Nicodemus felt those eyes pierce him. It was as if Jesus was staring into his soul.
As Jesus regarded Nicodemus, everyone in the room became uncomfortable. No one said a word. The silence screamed to be filled. Instead, Jesus took a sip of wine, never shifting his gaze. Finally, Jesus put down his cup. “I’m about to reveal to you a great truth. Here it is: unless someone is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
That’s what I meant to ask, thought Nicodemus. That’s the ultimate question: how can I enter the Kingdom of God? How did he know the unasked question in my heart, the question I didn’t even know how to ask? But the answer is incomprehensible.
“But how can anyone be born again when he is old, like me? Can he reenter his mother’s womb?”
“I’ll say it again. Listen up, for it is a great truth. Unless someone is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh; whatever is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Now don’t be freaked out when I tell you you gotta be born again,” Jesus answered with a smile. He looked around the room at the gathering of young men around him. “The wind blows where it wants to. You hear it, but you don’t know where it comes from, and you don’t know where it’s going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“I don’t understand,” said Nicodemus.
“Neither do I,” said Peter, stating what everyone else in the room was thinking.
Jesus continued speaking to Nicodemus. “You mean to tell me you’re a teacher of Israel, and yet you don’t know ’bout the Kingdom of God?” Jesus said with a laugh. His expression became serious again; he leaned across the table. “Listen to me, Nicodemus, because what I am telling you is extremely important. We speak about what we know, and we tell you about what we’ve seen, and yet you don’t accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things and y’all don’t believe me, how will you believe me if I tell you ’bout things of Heaven? No one has gone up to Heaven,” Jesus pointed skyward, “except the one who came down from Heaven, the Son of Man” Jesus’s finger now turned to point at himself. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”
Nicodemus remembered the strange story in the Scriptures when the Israelites were plagued by snakes after doubting God. The bites of the snakes were fatal. Moses had again pleaded on their behalf. God, instead of removing the snakes, provided an unusual cure. He ordered Moses to make an image of the snake, reminiscent of the snake in the Garden of Eden, and hang it on a stick. Anyone who was bitten by the deadly snakes need merely look on the snake hung upon the stick to be instantly cured.
Pete turned to John. “Do you understand what he’s talking about?”
“I wish I could say I do, but I don’t.”
Jesus then glanced over at John and Pete, as if he had heard what they had whispered to each other. Then he said, loudly enough for everyone to hear, “God loves the world so much that he has given his one and only son so that everyone who believes in him will never perish but have eternal life. For God didn’t send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. Anyone who believes in Him isn’t condemned, and anyone who doesn’t believe is already condemned. That man is condemned because he hasn’t believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.”
Jesus then poured himself and Nick another cup of wine and beckoned for the others to join them. “I’ve given y’all enough to chew on for one night. Let’s have a drink, welcome our new friend, and enjoy each other’s company.”
This fictional account is taken from John 3: 1–21.