Nicodemus was searching, and believed Jesus had answers. In this respect, Nicodemus was ‘in the dark’ so to speak, even though he was himself educated (“You are Israel’s teacher”). Nicodemus comes personally with an open mind and heart.
When Jesus speaks of being born again, this was a concept Nicodemus didn’t understand. Jesus tells him that the kingdom is personal, not national or ethnic, and to enter requires spiritual rebirth.
When Jesus mentions water and spirit, this seems to refer to the contrast between physical birth and spiritual birth. Water also represents cleansing, though Jesus is clear that people do not enter the kingdom by living a better life, but by being spiritually reborn.
Just a reflection here – bear with me and my tangents…(smile). Enlightenment is a metaphor about a mystical way of being religious. Outside the Jewish and Christian traditions, the best known enlightenment experience is described by the Buddha. Enlightenment leads one to see everything differently. It is not an intellectual experience of ‘seeing’. It is a spiritual experience involving communion or union with what is, an immediate knowing of the sacred that transforms one’s way of seeing.
In Nicodemus, illumination (like enlightenment) is a central metaphor for salvation. To have one’s eyes opened, to be enlightened, is to move from the darkness to light, from death to life, from falsehood to truth, from life in the flesh to life in the Spirit. It is to be born from above or from the Spirit.
This language of enlightenment is an emphasis on knowing God. This knowing is the meaning of “eternal life” – which is not a future state beyond death but an experience in the present. “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God.” For John, enlightenment experience is knowing God in Jesus. This knowing is beyond sickness, enemy, evil, sin or death.
John 3:16… This verse focuses on God’s love, which is not static or self centered; it reaches out and draws others in. This is the pattern of true love, the basis of all love relationships. When you love someone dearly, you are willing to sacrifice, give self-sacrifice.
John 3:19… Living in the Light is having one’s dark exposed – a frightening thought to some. With honesty, with naked truth, and exposure of one’s true self, an enlightened person lives by the truth which reveals yet more light. In this light, we see “plainly…”.