2nd Sunday in Lent – A LSB #502
Text – John 3:6
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, & that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
BORN OF THE SPIRIT
Pride is born of the flesh. Humility is born of the Spirit. Rudeness is born of the flesh. Kindness is born of the Spirit. Anxiety is born of the flesh. Peace is born of the Spirit. It’s our nature to think that if we employ the right tactics, if we provide enough education, if we just don’t single out bad behavior, then pride, rudeness & anxiety can be fixed or they’ll fade away.
New Year’s resolutions are another symptom of the same type of thinking. If we employ the right tactics, get enough education, & refrain from being too critical about our faults, then, whatever our problems are they can be fixed or they’ll at least fade into the background.
Even playing the lottery can fall into this type of thinking, because of the belief that money can fix everything. People get married because they believe that this one & only soulmate will make everything in their lives better, if not perfect.
Because of what sin has done to us, everyone instinctively understands that we need improvement. What sin has done to us also gives the impression that we can improve ourselves if we just find the way. It’s a notion that’s hard to shake because it is not learned behavior. It is in fact part of our DNA as sinful creatures.
The essence of our sinful nature is rebellion, & how rebellious can you be if you truly believe that you can’t get by on your own? The essence of rebellion is that the authorities that be are not getting it done. They aren’t doing right by me. They’re corrupt & looking out only for themselves. They deserve to be overthrown because I can do better.
Rebelling against authority is the ultimate “self-help” program. At least, until you end up in a position of authority. That’s where Nicodemus was. He was part of the ruling council & now rebellion threatened the authority of the Sanhedrin. This upstart Rabbi was traveling around the country performing miracles, or signs as the Gospel of John always refers to them. In the mind of Nicodemus only God could perform such things, & yet this Rabbi’s teaching was not at all in conformity with the authorities. He was turning their religious teachings upside down.
Instead of teaching that a person earned their way to heaven by living a good life in accordance with the law, this Jesus was teaching that heaven was a gift available to even the worst of sinners. It was a completely radical departure from everything they had practiced in Judaism for as long as anyone could remember. What was this Rabbi thinking?
So Nicodemus goes to meet with Jesus. He seeks out His counsel in a polite & cordial way. And then Jesus tells him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Naturally, Nicodemus does not understand what Jesus is talking about.
Many Christians today don’t understand either. They are being saved by God’s mercy & grace, not by their knowledge or understanding of Jesus’ teaching. After all, Jesus’ teaching is radically different than anything we could ever come up with on our own. And the answer to the dilemma that Nicodemus faced is in verse 6.
Jesus tells him, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, & that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Nicodemus, & by then the entire Jewish religion, was all about the flesh. There was no Spirit left. Yes, they needed to have a 2nd birth in order to actually be alive. They needed to be born of the Spirit, God’s Spirit. Today, we call that life the saintly nature.
Entry into the reign of God comes not by way of human striving, or self-help programs. Neither does it come by keeping the law. It comes by Baptism if you practice it. It comes by hearing the Word of God if people don’t practice Baptism. In either case, it is only God that can give spiritual life that transforms into eternal life. If you’re not willing to submit to the authority of your Creator, then He will not force His life upon you. This doesn’t seem all that radical to those of us who believe, but to those who do not it is an extremely radical & offensive thought that there is no life without the Creator. Remember, rebellion cannot submit to authority.
If you are willing to submit, it is the perfect answer, because those who believe & trust in Jesus know the depths of their failures & their complete inability to save themselves. They realize that their pride, rudeness & anxiety can never be upgraded or converted to humility, kindness & peace. That is what Jesus is teaching here in John chapter 3.
John’s Gospel pulls us on toward Calvary as the Lord speaks of His own coming death, as the Son of Man will be lifted up so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. Salvation promised to Abraham & acquired by the suffering & death of God’s Son lifted up on the cross is given as a gift to be received by faith alone.
Lent deepens in us the confidence of our Lord’s gift of redemption for the ungodly. The Collect of the Day sets our weakness “You see that of ourselves we have no strength” beside God’s power “By your mighty power defend us from all adversaries.” Our salvation cannot be out of our own resources. It is completely God’s work in Jesus, who does it gladly. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet