19 June 2020John 3:1-15
'Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the spirit.' (v. 5)
Psalm: Psalm 56
The Gospel of John was written several decades after Matthew, Mark and Luke. It makes use of several metaphors and symbols and is also known as 'the spiritual Gospel', because the Spirit is an important theme, along with several others, such as light and darkness, life and death and water.
The passage preceding the study passage talks about Jesus cleansing the Temple. The passage following today's reading contains verses that expand on the theme in verses 1-15.
Nicodemus, whose name means ‘conqueror’, was a Pharisee – the word means separated one. These men (it was an all male group) committed themselves to strict observance of the law, to the very last letter. Nicodemus was one of the religious leaders. It is not clear why he came at night. He was either afraid that he would be found out or he took seriously the belief that the law of God was best studied at night.
The address of ‘rabbi’ means ‘teacher’. It is not obvious what Nicodemus was wanting from Jesus. But Jesus was trying to explain that it was not only about the outward signs to which Nicodemus referred. There was much more to it: a new birth from above. At that time, one’s status was determined by one’s birth. But birth in this context meant that those born of water and the Spirit were born into God’s family, which reminds one of baptism which initiates someone into the family of the church.
The reference to ‘wind’ in verse 8, is a play on words, since the word for ‘wind’ and ‘spirit’ are the same. And the reference to the serpent in verse 14 refers to Numbers 21:5-9. This links to the cross, which for John is a symbol of glorification.
- Nicodemus struggled to grasp what Jesus was telling him. How do you respond to the concept of being born from above?
- How do you experience the wind of the Spirit to which Jesus refers?