By Sara Foss.
Patrick Henry College
Pastor Clancy Nixon of the Church of the Holy Spirit speaking to PHC students in Wednesday's chapel message
Pastor Clancy Nixon of The Church of the Holy Spirit, Anglican, in Leesburg gave Wednesday’s chapel message on the regeneration of Nicodemus, in John 3:1-8.
“He’s like a senator and a seminary professor and a Rockefeller,” said Nixon of Nicodemus. Yet that prominent Pharisee stole away in the middle of the night to see the “itinerant preacher from the boondocks,” as Nixon described Jesus.
He pointed out that not only was Nicodemus apparently aware of the miracles Jesus had done prior to their meeting, he was not surprised by Jesus’ declaration that he must be born again. Nicodemus did not ask why he must be born again, but only how. Baptism was already common practice among the Jews as the act of conversion and rebirth as a Jew. John the Baptist had taken this further, preaching that even Jews must repent and be made new.
“You’re watching a regenerative act right here,” said Nixon. When Jesus said “You must be born again,” He was not telling Nicodemus what action the Pharisee must undertake, but instead saying, “You are in the process of being born from above [or reborn].” Under this interpretation, Jesus was simply explaining to Nicodemus what was already happening to him.
Not only was Nicodemus rejecting his high order and status, by meeting with Jesus that night, but also his way of life.
“The way of the Pharisee is the way of avoiding sin so that God will see and save you—‘I obey, therefore I am accepted by God,’ versus, ‘I am accepted by God, through faith, therefore I obey.’”
Nixon drew the example of Jean Valjean and Javert from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables in which Valjean accepts the forgiveness offered by the bishop and begins a new life, leaving his sin and bitterness behind. Valjean later extended that forgiveness even to his lifelong persecutor, the rules-obsessed gendarme, Javert. Yet that man chose to end his life rather than undergo the changes involved in accepting Valjean’s forgiveness.
“One of the ways we get it right is by not trying to get it right by ourselves,” Nixon said.