Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lent '08 - Day 18: Born from Above

This passage always stops me in my tracks when I read it:
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is 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."
I first just chuckle at the way Jesus isn't confined by people's questions. Usually, when someone asks me a question, I focus very hard on answering their direct request. Nicodemus says, "God's with you." Jesus implicity agrees by teaching about the Kingdom. He takes control of the conversation and drives it to a place not originally intended by Nicodemus. And then when Nicodemus starts getting baffled, Jesus continues further with this "born from above" stuff. What a stud.

What particularly stands out to me though is Jesus says, "You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'" At first glance (or even first glances) this statement baffles me. I would be in Nicodemus' shoes. There are two ways in which Nicodemus is surprised:
  1. That we have to be born again.
  2. How we are born again.
Jesus addresses both of these. First, God's Kingdom is the domain where God's reign rules. It's where his will is carried out from top to bottom. We know from experience that a human on its own is not equipped to live within a kingdom where God's rule is obeyed and rejoiced in. Some other life or person must form and develop within that person for the Kingdom of God to be an appropriate place to reside in. I believe this other life, is the life born of the Spirit that Jesus talks about.

Concerning how the rebirth happens, Jesus doesn't say a lot to Nicodemus other than it is by the Spirit. Jesus' word about the wind is supposed to be as comforting as it is teaching for Nicodemus. Jesus effectively says, "You may not know where the wind comes from or where it goes, but that doesn't diminish the reality of the wind. Same goes with rebirth. You may not know how it occurs, when it will occur, and what all it will do, but that doesn't mean it won't happen!"

So I'm curious how much people believe this. Do we actually think it occurs? Can people point in their lives and in the lives of others where this new life has sprung forward? Is it like the wind, where we may not have mastery over it, but we see signs of it appearing? Also like the wind, are there certain places we can go or things we can do to help us to experience the new birth from the Spirit? And how important is it that we're aware of this new life within us?

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