Most of us remember the story of the Pharisee Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews who came to Jesus by night because he did not want the other Pharisees to see him consorting with this strange prophet. I remember thinking that Jesus wasn’t very friendly with Nicodemus.
I bring up the matter now, because the way Jesus treated Nicodemus had something to do with today’s first reading from Ezekiel.
When Nicodemus came to Jesus he said, “We have come to believe that you are a teacher come from God.” That sounds okay, but really it fell so far short of recognizing Jesus as the Messiah that it was like calling Babe Ruth a good sandlot player or calling Frank Sinatra a fair yodeler.
Nicodemus made a mistake that people keep on making. Jesus told Nicodemus that we each had to be born from above. For “from above” Jesus used the word anothen, and Nicodemus mistakenly took it to mean “again.” He thought Jesus was saying hat each of us must be born again. So he asked how can an old man scrunch back into his mother’s womb to be born again?
Jesus then said the new birth had to be a birth of water and the spirit. And when Nicodemus didn’t get the drift of that, Jesus asked how could Nicodemus be an accepted teacher of the Bible without catching the reference to water and spirit that we see in today’s first reading.
If you look carefully at Chapter Thirty-Six, verse twenty-five of Ezekiel you will see a tiny letter o linking you to a footnote directing you to the story of Nicodemus in Chapter Three of John’s Gospel. And if you look carefully at that story in John 3:6 you will see a little letter w directing you back to Ezekiel 36:25 where we read:
I will sprinkle clean water on you.
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you.