Daily Reflection – 4/30/19
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, 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 answered and said to him, “How can this happen?” Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this? Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:7-15)
Jesus is pretty hard on intellectuals. They are like the rich in that they have a lot of obstacles to overcome to enter into the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus was a recognized elite Jewish scholar, a Pharisee, and a member of the Sanhedrin. But something was missing for him. He knew he didn’t have all the answers but he was pretty sure that Jesus did. And he got a lot of people thinking; even people like Nicodemus who thought they already knew everything.
Nicodemus knew he was way out of his league compared to Jesus and he clearly respected Jesus as one who had divine authority to speak and to heal. That’s why he broke rank with the rest of the Pharisees to come quietly to speak to Jesus at night. And what did Jesus know? Jesus recognized that Nicodemus knew that something was missing in his life and that Jesus probably knew what he needed. Jesus knew that Nicodemus needed to be born of the Spirit, but Jesus also knew how hard it would be for Nicodemus to grasp what that meant. Nicodemus thought he just needed more religious knowledge. He thought it was about things on this earth, something he could see and control. So Jesus was pretty hard on him. Jesus challenged Nicodemus’ credentials as a teacher because Nicodemus didn’t know the basic difference between things on earth and things in heaven.
So Nicodemus listens and this is what Jesus told him that Jesus tells all of us who are scholars, clergy, bishops, members of church councils, and Sunday school teachers. Religion alone cannot save you or anyone. You have to drop your faith in systems of religious knowledge and rules and draw on salvation from Jesus alone. Being born into a religious family or community is not enough. You have to be reborn from above, through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus teaches us that it is necessary to be reborn to experience the kingdom of God and a new relationship with God. It is not the credentials of this world and human action, but the works of God through the Holy Spirit that saves us. We have to recognize that our being in control and our accomplishments can get in the way of our own and others’ salvation. We can’t use our knowledge to put up barriers. We have to let go of all that and let God work through us and others.
Nicodemus needed to separate his faith from what he could see and control in the natural world and place it in the spiritual world where God is in control. Jesus reminded him that the working of the Spirit is like the working of the wind. You can’t see it and you can’t control it. Our works, our efforts, and our knowledge don’t make it happen. We can’t save ourselves. But by opening ourselves to our shortcomings, we can let the Spirit work in us. That cost Nicodemus his wealth and status, but not his life, in fact, just the opposite, by being born again, he gained his life.
Prayer of The Day
Lord, today I pray for the grace and the depth of love to be loving with my loved ones and my friends, to be kind and gentle with the people I struggle with and may I strive to be the face of Jesus to the people we meet today!