Monday: First Week of Lent
Have you ever left your phone on airplane mode?
John tells us that Nicodemus was “a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee” (3:1). It’s hard to imagine a person more qualified to be a good human being or to enjoy a good relationship with God. Which makes Jesus’ words so surprising: “Unless an individual is born all over again…” (3:3).
Twelve little words, loaded with meaning and misunderstanding.
Jesus dismantles Nicodemus’ (or anyone’s) assumed qualifications for God. Jesus does not thank Nicodemus for paying Him a compliment, nor does He pat Nicodemus on the back for being spiritually keen. Instead, Jesus tells him (and anyone else listening) that only the most radical change imaginable enables anyone to see the kingdom of God.
How are we to understand what Jesus assumed Nicodemus—as a professor of Scripture—would realize, but failed to see here? With Ezekiel 36:25-27 a background, a few things become clear.
This new birth is something that cleanses. It washes away imperfection, even when—perhaps especially when—that imperfection masquerades as perfection. Also, this new birth transforms. Hearts that are hard and stony are replaced with hearts that are responsive.
In many ways, Jesus’ announcement of the need for new birth is an Easter message. Jesus says to Nicodemus and to all of us: You need resurrection not mere renovation!
By trusting Christ for life, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit so we can know God. By trusting Christ for life, the ability to commune with God is restored.
Being born again is like discovering the little Airplane Mode switch after having a phone that has been on Airplane Mode your entire life. This whole time you’ve been fooling around with the apps that came with the phone only to find out that the thing is built for communication. Now you can receive new affections, new power, new hope.
Take a moment to reflect on this: Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but dead people alive.
Lance Odegard is Lead Pastor at Artisan Church in Vancouver, BC.