Daily Devotion for April 30, 2018
In his maturity, Tanner chose a realistic, monochromatic setting to illustrate today’s Scripture. Note how Semitic the two men look. Nicodemus, an old and powerful Pharisee, sits at Jesus’s feet on a rooftop at night, where he won’t be seen.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Something to get our engines running for the week ahead! I love Donnie McLurken’s Jamaican tunes and simple, powerful lyrics. I’ve got my mind made up!
Rise up, oh children of light, and let us give glory to the Lord, who alone can save our souls. O Lord, as you withdraw sleep from the eyes of my body, grant me wakefulness of mind so that I may stand before you in awe and sing your praises worthily, all of this day.
For the Workers of the World
Oh Lord, I remember before thee today all the workers of the world;
Workers with hand or brain:
Workers in the cities or in the fields:
Those who go forth to toil and those who work at home:
Employers and employees:
Those who command and those who obey:
Those whose work is dangerous:
Those whose work is monotonous or mean:
Those who can find no work to do:
Those whose work is the service of the poor or the healing of the sick or the proclamation of the gospel of Christ;
At home or in foreign places.
[Wakefulness of mind.]
Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made me one with your saints in heaven and on earth. Grant that in my earthly pilgrimage I may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know myself to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. I ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Psalm 147:12-14 (NKJV)
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
For He has strengthened the bars of your gates;
He has blessed your children within you.
He makes peace in your borders,
And fills you with the finest wheat.
John 3:1-8 (ESV)
Being Born Again
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 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.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
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?”
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Notes on the Scripture
e once again see a Pharisee of high position checking Jesus out; the constant hounding of Christ by the religious/political powers of the day is a theme that we see from first to last in his life; his very birth impelled Herod to seek his death.
But Nicodemus’ intentions are not purely adversarial. He seems genuinely impressed that Jesus is a man of God. But when he asks Jesus about this, he gets a shock: Christ’s reply is that no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.
The Greek words for “born again” can also be construed as “born from above.” So there is a double meaning in the original Gospel that has not translated into English. But Nicodemus clearly takes the main meaning. You can almost hear him say: “Are you nuts?”
So Christ makes sense of it for him. Saying that a person must be born of water and the spirit makes sense; the Jews understood baptism with water, even though the Pharisees likely associated it with heresy. Then Christ fully explains that although the body is born of flesh, the spirit must be born of spirit. The most shocking implication is unspoken; that one must somehow receive the spirit in order to know the kingdom of God.
The last part is hard to follow; what does the wind have to do with being born again? In Greek one discovers a play on words. The Greek for “spirit” is the same as that for “wind,” and Jesus compares the two. Neither can be seen or controlled. Nobody knows where they come from or where they go. Rebirth from above is similar, in a way, to having one’s head tousled by a breeze. The person can’t see it and doesn’t know where it comes from or where it goes. Yet, it is very real. We can perceive the effect.
What we see, in this passage, is the first full development of the concept of the human soul as different from and severable from the body, at least in an ordered and useful theological sense. (Plato spent a lot of time thinking about it, although the Hebrews, when they began to conceive of an afterlife, adopted resurrection of the body as the primary vehicle for resurrection.)
Notice John pounding home his theme of Jesus’ miracles as proof of divinity. Lest the reader miss the implication, Nicodemus spells it out: “[N]o one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”