20 March 2011

John 3:1-17

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone 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." (vv. 16-17)


In this passage Jesus meets a significant leader of the Jewish community who, it seems, comes to him secretly. The discussion that results goes right to the heart of what Jesus is doing as he teaches the people.

Nichodemus seems rather slow at catching on at first - you can't take 'being born again' literally (verse 3) - but he is trying to draw Jesus out on what he is saying. It's about starting all over again, and leaving behind so much of what is thought of as adult, sophisticated and respectable. It's about having the humility to say I've got it wrong. Being "born of the spirit" (verse 6) means that the things of the Spirit of God come alive in you, such things as truth, peace, integrity and most of all love. That is a gift from God - like being born.

You might have thought that was enough for one night's conversation but no. They move on to the most amazing truth - God's unbounded love for what God has created despite its failings. That God's very self would be sent - Jesus, God's son - in order that folk could have the greatest of all gifts - eternal life. Unlike so many who try to teach others spiritual truths, Jesus makes clear that he comes not to judge (and many people today still think too much of God as a judge) but to save, that is to open the door to life as God always wanted it to be - life in all its fullness.

Not a bad conversation for late at night!

To Ponder

Is Jesus saying to you that you need to be "born of the spirit"? What are you going to do about it?

What is there in your life that is born "of the spirit" and what needs leaving behind?

If Jesus didn't come to judge what right do we have to do so? Where in your life do you judge others? And what do you think might be an alternative?

Bible notes author

The Revd John Howard

John Howard is a minister in the Methodist Church, at present serving as the chair of the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District. He is married to Mary with three adult children, and has just become a grandfather for the first time.