Yesterday had been fine, a calm day, then suddenly last evening there it was.
It caught me unawares as I left a house where I was visiting, almost causing me to lose balance. Through the night I could feel it buffeting the gable of the house. Where we live now overlooks Horn Head and Sheephaven Bay in North Donegal, and this morning I’m watching the clouds being driven across the sky and the shrubs in the garden almost bending over double.
And I’m thinking of recent conversations about a little phrase used by Christ in discussion with Pharisee Nicodemus. ‘No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ Jesus said.
(John 3 v 3)
These two little words sometimes prove controversial, worn proudly like an ID badge by some, perceived as confusing, or a threat, or cause of resentment to others.
Nicodemus was a bit confused but intrigued by Jesus, not sure whether to feel threatened or thrilled. So he came to find out more, cautiously at first, in the quietness and privacy of evening.
Things were happening in the neighbourhood, in his own head and heart, that were making him think of the God he read about in the Old Testament days of Moses. This man Jesus was preaching with authority like a prophet, and backing his words with jaw-dropping miracles. Crowds were following Him but other religious leaders were plotting to kill Him. What was it all about?
So Jesus spoke about the wind.
We can’t see it. We may not be able to completely understand or explain it. But it’s real. And it’s powerful. A storm brews as it sends clouds rushing and brings the world to its knees.
God was at work in the neighbourhood. His Son had come in the flesh and when He was ‘lifted up’ on the cross in sacrifice He would provide redemption for the world. As the Holy Spirit of God worked invisibly, people were finding power from beyond themselves to change and make a new start. A new beginning inside. A new birth.
And although Nicodemus seems to have been confused initially, the fact that he could perceive what his fellow Pharisees couldn’t, and that he came to Jesus suggests that a ‘new birth’ was starting to happen in him. Later in John’s Gospel it’s interesting to see that Nicodemus came to Pilate with Joseph of Arimathea to request permission to give Jesus a decent burial. By that stage he was not afraid to be identified as a follower of Jesus. The ‘wind’ of God’s Spirit was obviously still blowing in his heart and life!
The last time it was this stormy here most people were staying indoors or running for cover, but I noticed two intrepid windsurfers in their wetsuits, jumping waves out in the bay.
I guess a lot of people are cautious about genuine interaction with God, afraid of whipping up a storm they can’t control. But for those who perceive and welcome the work of His Spirit, who let Him clear the clouds of sin and fear and cause us to bow to Jesus as Lord – the life and adventure are just beginning!