Scripture: John 3:1-8 (alternate reading for the Feast of the Annunciation: Luke 1:26-38)
1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him." 3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.' 8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit."
Meditation: Do you nourish your faith with prayerful reflection of the word of God? When Nicodemus heard about Jesus' miracles and extraordinary teaching, he decided to meet with him privately, away from the crowds and the public spotlight. Nicodemus was no ordinary Jew. He was a religious ruler and member of the Sanhedrin, which was the supreme court of the Jews, and a teacher of Israel (John 3:10). He was a devout Pharisee who sought to perfectly follow the law of Moses, as prescribed in the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and Numbers) and further elaborated in the numerous scribal laws, recorded in the Mishnah and the Talmud.
Nicodemus decided to meet with Jesus at night, possibly for two reasons. He may have been cautious and not ready to publicly associate himself with Jesus since many Pharisees opposed Jesus' teaching and called him a Sabbath breaker. It is also likely that Nicodemus chose the night as the best time for seeking a private and undisturbed conversation with Jesus. The rabbis declared that the best time to study the law was at night after the day's work was completed and the household was at rest. When Nicodemus saw Jesus he addressed him as rabbi (a teacher of God's word and law) and acknowledged that Jesus' teaching came from God.
Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus went to the very heart of the Mosaic law - how can one get right with God and enter God's kingdom? Jesus' answer was brief and startling: "Unless one is born anew, he cannot see God." The new birth which Jesus spoke about was not a physical birth but the beginning of a spiritual birth which is something completely new and radical, and from above, namely from God himself. Jesus said that this rebirth was necessary if one was to enter God's kingdom. Nicodemus thought that to be born again, even spiritually, was impossible. He probably knew too well from experience that anyone who wants to be changed from within, can't accomplish this by oneself. Jesus explained that this change could only come about through the work and action of the Holy Spirit. This rebirth in the Spirit is very real and experiential, like the wind which can be felt and heard while it is visibly unseen to the naked eye.
Rebirth in the Spirit
What does it mean to be reborn in the Spirit? The new birth which Jesus speaks of is a spiritual birth to a life which is transformed through the power of God. This new life brings us into an experiential relationship with God as his adopted sons and daughters (Romans 6:4; 8:10-11). This new birth is made possible when one is baptized into Christ and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. God wants to renew all of his people in the gift of new life in his Holy Spirit. This new life in the Spirit brings us into God's kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17).
What is the kingdom of God - which is also called the kingdom of heaven? God's kingdom - his reign and blessing as King over us - is the abundant everlasting life and power from heaven which God shares with those who accept him as the Eternal Father and Author of Life and Ruler of All he has created. Jesus explains in the prayer he gave to his disciples, what we call the Lord's Prayer or the Our Father, that God's kingdom is that society of men and women who acknowledge God as their Lord and Ruler and who obey his word and live according to his will on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
To be reborn in the Spirit is to enter that society in which God is honored and obeyed. Those who willingly accept God's rule in their lives become citizens of God's heavenly kingdom and members of God's family - his adopted sons and daughters. And they enter into possession of the life which comes from God himself, an everlasting life of love, peace, joy, and freedom from sin, oppression, and corruption. Do you know the joy and freedom of the new birth and abundant life which Jesus Christ has won for you?
"Lord Jesus Christ, you offer us abundant new life and power to live as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. Renew in me the gift of faith to accept and obey your life-giving word and to cooperate with the transforming power of your Holy Spirit who changes us into your likeness. May your kingdom come and your will be done in my life today, tomorrow, and always."
1 Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying,
3 "Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us."
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 "I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill."
7 I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my son, today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
A Daily Quote from early church fathers: Reborn and Fed by the Spirit, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"And then that rebirth, which brings about the forgiveness of all past sins, takes place in the Holy Spirit, according to the Lord's own words, 'Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, one cannot enter the kingdom of God.' But it is one thing to be born of the Spirit, another to be fed by the Spirit; just as it is one thing to be born of the flesh, which happens when a mother gives birth, and another to be fed from the flesh, which appears when she nurses the baby. We see the child turn to drink with delight from the bosom of her who brought it forth to life. Its life continues to be nourished by the same source which brought it into being." (excerpt from Sermon 71.19)
from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible,
copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard
Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of
Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches
of Christ in the United States of America. Used by
permission. All rights reserved. Citation references
for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can
be found here.
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