John 3:1-17 (click for full reading)
“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.”
(Click on the title above to listen to the sermon)
If you are confused while reading today’s scripture text – you are not alone. This is a Gospel filled with word play and hidden meaning and sometimes it takes a little digging to figure it all out.
We start with Nicodemus, an important Jewish Religious leader, sneaking in the cover of night to check out this Jesus guy. In John, Jesus is doing tons of miraculous acts. Nicodemus comes, and refers to the miracles that are being seen – and Jesus tells him that he’s got it wrong. All those miracles are not the Kingdom of God. You have to, as Jesus says, “be born again.” The word here translated as “born again” is anothen. Which means both born again and born from above. It’s both. One is physical, one is spiritual. Jesus is talking about the spiritual, but Nicodemus gets stuck in the physical. Nicodemus says “it’s not possible for someone to enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born!” Jesus replies using images of water and wind: “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
We hear the phrase “born of water and Spirit” and we go immediately to baptism. In the Rite of Baptism, we echo this very verse when we say “We are born children of a fallen humanity; but in the waters of baptism, we are reborn children of God”. So if we’ve been born into flesh (which we all have, so we’re sinners), we too need to be reborn into the spirit (reborn as children of God)
The most famous verse in the Bible comes within this context today. John 3:16. God loves us so much he wants us to be unstuck. He wants to help us get unstuck. And there are a lot of things in our lives that cause us to be stuck. The confession we say for this Lenten season perfectly illustrates this. “we confess we have turned away from you and in toward ourselves…we confess that we have trusted ourselves most of all”
But God wants us to be unstuck.
And so God sends Jesus to rescue us.
To get us unstuck and to remind us that we are children of God.
Questions to ponder/discuss:
1. What things cause you to get “stuck” in your walk of faith?
2. Are those things more questions that you want to have answered, or answers that you think you’ve got right?
3. What does it mean for you that you have been reborn?
This week, try saying the confession below daily if you can – and remind yourself that the “gift to us” at it’s end is Christ – the one who brought about your rebirth in the Kingdom of God.
Holy God, we confess that we have turned away from you and from our neighbors, and in toward ourselves. We have sought security in possessions and the place of power in relationships. We have trusted ourselves most of all. Turn us back to you, O God. In your mercy, forgive our sinfulness and cleanse us from guilt and shame. Guide us on the path of freedom that is your gift to us in Christ our Lord. Amen.