“I can’t tell you when I’ll be there, I need to be like the wind.”

In the gospel of John, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” I’ve heard people say that this means followers of Jesus shouldn’t let themselves be pinned down to appointments or commitments, but should live as freely and spontaneously as possible, because they never know where the wind of the Spirit might take them next.  What do you think of this?

Jesus’ interview with Nicodemus is discussed in Session 4 of the John study guide.  To answer your specific question, when Jesus said that people who are born of the Spirit are like the wind, I don’t think he meant that they’re unpredictable and spontaneous, and don’t make or honor any regular commitments, so that no one will ever be able to tell where they’ve come from or where they’re going.  I think Jesus was talking instead about his own origins and destiny, and by implication the origins and destiny of anyone who chooses to follow him.

Nicodemus begins his conversation with Jesus by saying, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God.”  Jesus replies to this assertion, which is a little too confident, by saying in effect, “Do you really think you know where I’ve come from?”  An incident later in the gospel illustrates how Nicodemus doesn’t know where Jesus has come from even from an earthly standpoint.  Nicodemus tries to stand up for Jesus when the Jewish leaders accuse him, but they argue that Jesus couldn’t possibly be the Messiah because he’s from Galilee, and the Scriptures don’t say the Messiah will come from there.  If Nicodemus really knew where Jesus was from, in the most basic sense, he’d reply that Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem, right where the Scriptures say the Messiah will come from.

But much more importantly in terms of the theological concerns of the gospel of John, Nicodemus doesn’t realize that Jesus is the eternal Word who has come to earth in human form. So Jesus talks about the wind: you hear the sound of it, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going.  The earthly Jesus can be seen and heard, but most people don’t realize his divine origins, and they don’t realize the divine destiny he’s come to fulfill.

Amazingly, anyone who is born of the Spirit will be like Jesus in this same way.  I think that’s what Jesus really means when he talks about those who are born of the Spirit being like the wind.  He’s not endorsing or recommending a spontaneous, unpredictable behavior pattern.  Rather, he’s saying that his followers will be endowed with the same heavenly origins and destiny that he has.  Pretty amazing!

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

5 thoughts on ““I can’t tell you when I’ll be there, I need to be like the wind.””

  1. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for this. If you have any more to share about Nico, that would be great. I find his encounter with Jesus, on that night, most intriguing. I’ve heard one teacher explain that there is historic evidence that Nico was probably ‘saved’.

    1. What we can say for sure about Nicodemus, based on what John tells us about him, is that he went from being afraid to be associated with Jesus (which is why he first came to see him at night) to standing by him openly, first when he defended him to the Pharisees during the Festival of Tabernacles, and then when he bravely went with Joseph of Arimathea to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body. Both of these actions suggest that he had become a supporter of Jesus, if not a believer in him. Later Christian tradition says that Nicodemus was baptized and that he suffered for his faith and was ultimately banished from Jerusalem because he was a follower of Jesus. The biblical record certainly suggests that this tradition is accurate.

  2. Hi! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog
    platform are you using for this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems
    with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

    1. I’m just using one of the standard WordPress templates. Sorry for the problems you’re having with hackers. All I can recommend is that you try some of the other platforms out there and see if they work better for you. Best wishes!

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