Beginning Again and Again

Growing up, some called me a tomboy. I didn’t particularly like that label, but I did enjoy ripping and romping outside. I constantly pushed the limits of gravity and physics. I have many scars to prove my reckless ways and could entertain you for hours with stories linked to each one; but I’ll spare you for now.

I blame the Sunday afternoon Tarzan movies. They inspired the other neighborhood kids and me to swing through the air by holding onto handfuls of weeping willow branches. We, of course, always bellowed that iconic Tarzan yell as we soared. We worked hard to find higher and higher things to swing off of until one of us eventually got hurt. 

Those old Tarzan movies captivated my attention. After finding out that Johnny Weissmuller had won five gold medals swimming in the Olympics, I decided he was my hero. He was strong, fearless, and always showed up at the right time to save the day. Besides, who doesn’t like a guy that can talk to animals and swing through the trees with a chimpanzee wrapped around his neck? I guess in a farfetched, crazy sort of way Tarzan helped me realize the importance of having a hero you can count on. Maybe that’s why those movies were so popular. Everybody needs a hero.

Nicodemus needed a hero. The fine, upstanding Pharisee had witnessed Jesus’ miracles. His own heart and mind fought against one another as he processed all he’d seen and heard. Jesus intrigued Nicodemus both as a teacher and a miracle worker. However, as a religious leader, it was Nicodemus’ responsibility to learn all he could about Jesus so that his people wouldn’t be led astray. He fully understood that only a man from God could do miraculous things, yet he couldn’t quite bring himself to believe all he had seen.

Jesus patiently tried to help Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law, understand the process of being born again by using the same familiar metaphors found in Scripture. He explained, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5 ESV) Nicodemus didn’t quite catch Jesus’ connection to the prophetic words God had already spoken to Ezekiel centuries earlier, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Notice how many “I’s” there are in these words. It’s never been about what WE do. It’s always been about what HE does. That concept was foreign to a self-righteous man like Nicodemus.

The next time Nicodemus is mentioned is at the end of John 7. There, the Pharisees felt threatened by the notoriety Jesus received from the people in Jerusalem. Nicodemus stands up briefly for Jesus by asking the chief priests and other Pharisees, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (John 7:51 ESV)

I want to believe that Nicodemus eventually put his faith in Jesus and believed that He was who He said He was. I truly hope that after Jesus rose from the grave, He became Nicodemus’ hero. I hope ol’ Nic held on to the confidence that he’d been born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. I hope he got to continually experience the grace that allowed him to begin again and again. Only then could he fully understand that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV) If I get to meet Nicodemus in heaven one day, I want to make sure he knows how his conversation with Jesus changed the hearts of generation after generation – and how it changed mine. 

Even when we grab handfuls of branches and swing from tree to tree searching for someone to love us, Jesus smiles and says, “I love you with an everlasting love.” He expects us to believe Him. 

Even when we think we are recklessly pushing the limits of God’s grace and mercy, Jesus loves us enough to whisper, “I still love you, but this is not good for you.” He requires repentance. 

As we weep over strained relationships, He firmly reminds us, “Trust me, and be patient. I’m teaching both of you how to love other people.” He wants our surrender. 

When grief of any kind grabs us and won’t let go, He quietly sits with us for as long as it takes. He understands. 

Time with Jesus turns the scars we once tried to hide into beautiful reminders of God’s faithful love. Linked to each of your scars is a story worth telling. Together, they demonstrate God’s strength, fearlessness, and exceptional timing. There’s no time for monkey business. Wrap the love of God around your heart and swing through the trees while shouting out your stories because everybody needs a hero!

“From his [Jesus’] fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
(John1:16-17 ESV)

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Donna Jackson

2 Comments

  1. June Harris on January 17, 2023 at 11:12 pm

    I love your posts.

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