Daily Devotion for January 28, 2011
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
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.
Being Born Again
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Notes on the Scripture
We 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 we cannot be sure that Nicodemus' intentions are 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?"
But 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 very hard to follow; what does the wind have to do with being born again? 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 way, to having one's head touseled by a breeze. The person can't see it and doesn't know where it comes from or where it goes.
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. (Certainly Plato spent a lot of time thinking about it, although the Hebrews, when they began to concieve of an afterlife, adopted resurrection of the body as the primary vehicle for resurrection.)