Sometimes a good idea seems too complicated to us that we get shocked on seeing how simple and easy it actually is. So what happens is that a thing is so unbelievably easy that it becomes so complicated or even next to impossible to us. Often, we love complicating things, majoring on the minors. Sound familiar? Here’s an example.
Start All Over Again?
Nicodemus was told that seeing the Kingdom of God was as easy as being born again—simply starting as a new born baby. Jesus put it as if it was as easy as ABC—and it was. When my classmate shared the Gospel to me and talked about being born again or starting life again from the very start—and this time you start it out and go all the way with God every step of the way—it was easy to understand.
“Okay, so I give up my past and present to the Lord, repent of sins, ask forgiveness, and receive Jesus into my heart as Savior and Lord. That should be easy,” I told myself back in September 1980. But to Nicodemus it was kindof a bit complicated, not just because he thought it was all about going back to the womb as a baby. I think it was more than that. You see, he was an accomplished Pharisee, member of the Jewish ruling council and “teacher of all Israel.” To be all that, he had to finish lots of master’s and doctorate degrees, as it were. And then Jesus said he had to trash all that and start all over again, like a new born babe.
“How can this be?” was his reaction. How could he give up all that, all that he had worked hard for all his life?
Empty Your Cup
And what the apostle Paul said in his letter somewhat confirms my idea here. To gain Christ, you have to consider everything “a loss…I consider them as garbage” [Philippians 3]. He was referring to his credentials as an Israelite and Pharisee, and that included all his “master’s and doctorate degrees” so to say. And I would think that the same had applied to Nicodemus—and to everyone else for that matter. You want Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? You have to trash all your past and start all over again. Not just your past sins but your past glories as well.
It’s like the old eastern adage of emptying your cup first before you can taste a different tea. Jesus emptied himself first before he could take the nature of a servant (some versions say form of a slave). Paul was made blind for three days and fasted during his conversion—practically emptying himself before the Lord could fill him.
So, it was all so easy. Just start all over again. I think Nicodemus could not believe it was that easy. He was probably thinking more on the Old Testament disciplines and rituals—a perfect animal offering brought to the altar and slaughtered by priests in a most sacred ceremony accompanied by solemn choir singing.
Do You Have Little or a Lot?
Or perhaps, he couldn’t believe it was that difficult. I had little to lose when I gave up all to Christ, being a nobody, a war-freak fraternity member in college and soon to be college dropout. Nicodemus had a lot to lose—titles, degrees, position, status, prestige, privileges and all the pecuniary benefits attached to that. No wonder some religious leaders who believed opted to stay incognito or else low-profile for fear of losing benefits.
Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue. [John 12.42]
Simple things become complicated when you worry about what you’d lose from the world, especially if you have a lot to lose. No wonder the Gospel is more attractive to people despised in the world. In this sense, it pays to be less busy with the world. Now I know why Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom and the rich man to Hades, and why the rich young ruler went away sad even if he did well with the law.
In a sense, it’s that easy. In another sense, it’s not.
Image above from Funny-Potato.com.