Reader: “No one has ever gone to heaven and returned.”
Response: “But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.”
Scripture: John 3:1-13
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven.
Reader: “This is God’s word as recorded by John.”
Response: “Thanks be to God for these powerful words.”
This is one of the better known accounts in the gospels, the interaction between Nicodemus, a leader of the Pharisees and one of the esteemed seventy rulers (like a Jewish Supreme Court) and Jesus. One of the things that is evident in this pericope is Nicodemus’ inability to think beyond a physical birth. Jesus’ description of the spiritual birth escapes him as it does for many people today. Birth from above is the result of the action of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The wind blows where it will. The Spirit of God is free and moves where it will. God’s Spirit comes from heaven and cannot be contained or controlled. Jesus’ challenge to Nicodemus and to us is if you won’t believe what I tell you about earthly things (Do you believe what Jesus said while on earth?), how can you possibly believe what I tell you about heavenly things? Jesus’ explanation is a magnificent account showing us how earth-bound humans can be connected to heaven, how our earthly and heavenly existence to God are connected! In giving added authority to his comment, Jesus then makes a “once in eternity” statement, “No one has ever gone to heaven and returned, but the Son of Man has come down from heaven!” History and theology are melded into one. The Son of Man has taken on human flesh. There is no religion in the world where the god became human and dwelt on earth. Christianity is unique. Thank God today for your spiritual birth and continue to pray for those who have not yet been born of the Spirit. Nancy and I got news today that a person for whom we have been praying for years has come to faith in Christ! Be encouraged. Keep praying for the Nicodemuses in your world.
While this music is often thought of as Christmas music, it is music of the Incarnation and after all, Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost are all part of the same story!
Music: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” Outofdarknessmusic a unique setting
Gracious God, you brought Christ into the world to bear our afflictions, and by his stripes we are healed; we come with thanksgiving for his cleansing redemption. Purge the stain of sin within us and give us clean hearts, that we may serve you more faithfully. Renew right minds that we may enjoy the fruits of your Spirit and abound in the love, joy, peace, goodness, and faithfulness we find in the reconciling love of Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord. ―Prayers for Easter, James G. Kirk, p.15