Summary: A new year, a new beginning. Jesus tells Nicodemus that to enter the kingdom of God, he must be born of water and the Spirit! This holds fast for all who would follow Christ and enter the kingdom of God. "You must be born again" (Jesus)
On a practical level I really do like to garden, those of you who have listened to me preach for a while have probably heard me blather on about my vege garden, it’s looking great at present, I’ve got courgettes growing, tomatoes vines just starting to bear fruit, I’ve already harvested raspberries, lettuce, my peas are about a week away, leeks are running to seed, and I’ve given horse radish a go for the first time and in among it all Rochelle has planted some swan plants because we both enjoy seeing them demolished by caterpillars that become monarch butterfly’s.
Yesterday I harvested my garlic, I love the way this herb grows, you plant it on the shortest day and harvest it on the longest. In on the 20th of June or there about and I was a little late getting it out, but only by about a week. A tip to the harvesting of garlic and any true bulb is to harvest the whole plant and allow the goodness all that energy that is stored in the stork and leaves to be drawn back into the bulb. Allow the tops to dry of before separating the stork from the useful bit. The new life in the bulb actually comes from the leafy bit from the bit above it.
My sermon today is also about new life from above, but not as something that is attached to us but something of God that comes from God to us.
‘New’ is the thing I’ll be looking at in this sermon and the next . Though I will not be talking about new years resolutions and new adventures that 2012 may bring but new life in Christ. I’m going to start with this passage from John’s gospel, read John 3:1-10.
This bloke Nicodemus had come to see Jesus at night time, the reason for his visit at this time of day was unclear, was he afraid of what others in his sect might say, was this the normal time to drop in and see someone? All this is a bit uncertain, was Jesus place on his way home to his place, we don’t know why he came at night. Now Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and a member of the Sanhedrin which was the Jewish ruling council, meaning he was one of a group of seventy men who had jurisdiction given to them by the Romans over Jewish civil and religious matters.
Nicodemus is portrayed in the gospel as being a straight up kind of bloke who was genuinely interested along with other members of this ruling council in Jesus and his teaching. It appears that at this visit he wanted to talk with Jesus, Rabbi to Rabbi, teacher to teacher.
His introduction to Jesus is interesting in that he made a kind of confession as to who he believed Jesus to be, as he 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.” The ‘we’ Nicodemus was referring to was probably the rest of the Sanhedrin who were in favour of Jesus teaching and miracles, those who were not challenged by his authority but wanted to better understand who Jesus was as a teacher.
Then Jesus drops a bit of a dazzling statement: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Nicodemus obviously got taken a bit aback by this as his reply was a little like we would say “ya what?” Nicodemus asks “How can a man be born again when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born?”
That last little sentence was a bit of a no brainer really, no a man can’t enter into his mothers womb to be born again, yuck.
So being born again is something that Jesus is addressing as being completely different, this is not about a physical thing, about worldly stuff this is about the kingdom of God, not the backyard of man, this is about the spiritual not physical.
In Jesus words “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 where 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.”
Just as a follow on, I want to make something about this passage clear before we spend a bit more time looking at it. When scripture reads Spirit with a capital letter ‘S’ it is referring to The Holy Spirit, The Spirit of God.