Doubtless the old man had prayed the same pray hundreds of times since his youth. Doubtless he had said the words in fervent and genuine hope.
And yet, now, on a brisk winter night in the back streets of Jerusalem, he stood in front of the controversial young preacher from Nazareth, looking intensely at him in the torch light, and did not recognize the very answer to his lifelong prayer.
“In order to enter into the Kingdom of God,” the Nazarene had just said. “You must first be born again.”
“But,” Nicodemis objected, “How can a man be born a second time?”
“You call yourself a teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” came Jesus somewhat pointed question with its implied rebuke.
The problem, of course, was the Nicodemis was looking for God in the spectacular, not the ordinary. Perhaps if Jesus had glowed in the dark, or floated in the air, or, as is often portrayed in paintings, had the only whiter-than-white robe anywhere in view . . . perhaps then Nicodemis would have seen the living and breathing answer to his lifelong prayer.
But God chose to enter the world dressed in peasant’s rags. While everyone was staring into the shadows watching for something amazing, hardly anyone seems to have noticed God Almighty had walked quietly into the room masked in the ordinary.
People today pour into churches that promise the spectacular every Sunday. We find ourselves searching for God in extraordinarily powerful praise music compliment with stunning visuals and media. A small bit of bread and a little cup of juice hardly seems to measure up. But, as we are invited to sit at table with the unexpected Jesus, perhaps we need to look harder to see God in the most ordinary.
Loaf and cup . . . like an unexpected Messiah.