Commentary on John 3:1-17
I have a deep admiration for you. I don’t know much about you but it seems to me you have a good heart. Surely you are a religious leader and a wise man. I write 2,000 years after you had this conversation with Jesus. I am a Christian which means I follow that precious Jew you were talking to that night. I hope you would laugh if you heard all of the ways many Christians talk about this conversation you had with Jesus. Often we hear how much you didn’t get from Jesus’ message, how you didn’t know this, how you were afraid and had to hide to talk to Jesus, how you needed to learn something or were confusing things, not quite getting what is necessary to know. Especially because of your own position as a religious leader, we judge that you should definitely know better about key things in that conversation. We all think that we are as clever as Jesus was!
I must confess I really admire that you went to see Jesus during the night; if it was because you were embarrassed or afraid of what other people would say, you are just like any of us. I’ve done that too, going to people to ask things that I should know better. The other day I went to my student Moses, a Dalit from India, and asked all of the most obvious questions about India, the Dalits and the caste system. Some questions were even rude or stupid. But I trusted him and he was so generous with me. He taught me so much! Perhaps when I left he was saying to himself: “I thought my adviser knew better.”
Moreover, you were very humble calling Jesus a rabbi, even when Jesus was a very controversial and disputed figure in your time. You honored Jesus! Also the questions you asked were so good! This is surely a sign of your wisdom and humble attitude.
Your questions helped us understand Jesus better. Your concern about being born and belonging have been fundamental to Christian spiritual-material life. Here is my take on your conversation with Jesus: our birth is as much a spiritual event as it is a material one, for there is no distinction between these two realms, right? The same way that above and below are also distinctive parts of the same reality, one is not more important than the other since they complement each other. In the same way, our mothers’ wombs carry both the Spirit of life and the Waters of life. For Christians, without water there is no material birth or spiritual rebirth. Flesh and Spirit are woven into the same body, all wet by so much water! Human and natural bodies, water and spirit bodies, all are shaped in the soil/humus.
We read your conversation with Jesus on the day the followers of Jesus celebrate the Trinity. You wouldn’t believe what that group of people following Jesus became! We call it church. Amazing things were done by this church and lots of atrocities too. Also, so much happened to your own people. Sorry I don’t have much time to write more about it all.
I mentioned the Trinity—this is a Christian belief where God is one in three persons: God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. You would think this is craziness! But for Christians, it is how God moves, relates, dances, and manifests Godself in the world—always through relations. In many ways, the Trinity is an entanglement that keeps unfolding back and forth, a sign and metaphor for our own ways of living together, being different and yet being a part of the same life. God, human, other beings, the earth, the rivers and oceans, the air—everything is a big relation of deep belonging and entanglements. In other words, I cannot understand God if I do not know the earth. I cannot understand human beings outside of the life of other beings: animals, vegetables, and minerals. The same way the Spirit cannot be understood without water. Thus, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the redeemer of this world is also the Spirit of God fully alive in the “natural” world, which is not to be understood apart from the “cultural” world. For nature and culture are one thing, just like the Trinity.
I must wrap up my letter to you, but I want to mention something Jesus said to you at the end because it became one of the most well-known saying of Jesus, namely: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” This text has been used to save people spiritually from their sins, but I think it is time for us to understand that the eternal life promised by Jesus has to do with the life we live now. The eternal life promised by Jesus that comes through the presence of the Spirit can only be understood if it is fully drenched in the waters of our world and the wombs of our mothers. Thus, there is eternity in every river and in all the oceans as there is eternity in the work of the Spirit and in the love of God through Jesus. For the Spirit of God is also made of waters.
Why am I saying that? Because, my good friend, our world is running out of water right now. So much so that Wall Street (the people and big corporations controlling the financial life of the world) is now investing in water.
We are in a dire situation—really scary! While our rivers are drying, the ice caps are melting. We will be burning soon. I believe that this situation is because the Spirit is lacking. When the Spirit lacks in our world the water starts to disappear as well.
Oh Nicodemus, we need to care for the water so the Spirit can come back. We must start to relate the life of the Trinity, that is the life of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, with the life of the earth and all forms of life! So we can relate together, dance together, live together! Without division. More than ever, we need to gain a new awareness of the Spirit as well as of the water, so that we can finally understand the eternal love of God for the world.