“How Can This Be?”

Kurt Jacobson
4 min readMay 26, 2024

May 26, 2024

Trinity Sunday

John 3:1–17

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. ***

Non Sequitur is a comic strip created by Wiley Miller in 1992. The title is translated from Latin and means “it does not follow.” The Non Sequitur strip is often satirical, sometimes political and other times, purely comedic. The strip hilariously jabs at the feats and foibles of life.

Readers can always count on Non Sequitur to take ordinary absurdity and turn it into hilarious absurdity. In that way this strip helps us take ourselves a bit less seriously.

Simple examples of non sequiturs are easy to create. If a non sequitur were a song, its first note would bear no relationship to its last. Or all trees are tall, all tall things are yellow, therefore, all trees are green.”

If a non sequitur were a conversation, you would be eavesdropping on Jesus’ clandestine conversation with Nicodemus.

Trinity Sunday is a non sequitur. While all other church festivals and holy days mark events, Trinity Sunday is all about an idea. An indefensible, unverifiable, seemingly inchoate idea that has animated the church for centuries.

God is three. God is one.

God is undivided. God appears everywhere.

God is now. God has always been.

If ever there were a non sequitur, Trinity Sunday is it. That is why Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus is such a fitting text for the day.

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, has witnessed Jesus at work: teaching, preaching, healing, exorcising. No doubt it has been fascinating to watch Jesus. And, as a Pharisee whose life’s work is to interpret texts and teachings in a contemporary context, Nicodemus is probably OK with things being a bit out of the ordinary.

But even Nicodemus, open to ideas and eager to learn, is stumped by Jesus’ circuitous answers to his straightforward declarations and clearly relevant questions.

Nicodemus: “We know you are a teacher” is met with “one needs to be born from above.”

Nicodemus: “Can a person crawl back into the womb?” is met with “the wind blows where it will.”

Flummoxed, Nicodemus sighs, “How can these things be?”

My guess is he intends to end the conversation there and return home to ponder. But his rhetorical question is met with even more unrelated information by Jesus: earthly and heavenly things, ascending and descending, serpents and the Son of Man. At the end, Jesus lands the coup de grace of non sequiturs: the Father loves the Son so much, the Father sent the Son to die.

Nicodemus is silenced. Stunned into silence, perhaps? Confused beyond comprehension? We do not know, because John, the Gospel writer, doesn’t say. Jesus gets the last word with this non sequitur, and along with Nicodemus, we are left shaking our heads.

Mad Libs is a fun word game in which one player prompts others for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story before reading aloud. Trinity Sunday can be regarded as biblical Mad Libs “God is . . .” And that is where our uncertainty starts.

Except there is no uncertainty — only absurdity, on our part. After all, doesn’t it strike you as absurd that we would attempt to name, to define, to corral the One who is both before and after, everywhere and here, singular and multiple, without gender, race, age, or birthdate?

Nicodemus has it right. He walks away believing, having to be satisfied with the question that hangs in the air, “How can this be?”

And isn’t that the challenge of living this life with faith? Perhaps the concept of the Trinity provides opportunity to see the Divine with its multiple dimensions (whether Father/Creator, Son/Savior and Holy Spirit/Comforter) in the many and varied times of life when we especially need to know the grace and mercy of God’s presence.


1 CatholicChurchCulture.weebly.com

3 Absolutearts.com



Kurt Jacobson

Author of “Living Hope” & “Welcoming Grace.” Lutheran preacher (retired) but still writing to inspire and aim for a world of mercy, love and respect.