Observations on Theology, Culture and the Hosier family

Monday, 12 January 2009


John 3:4-10
Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?

In response to Nick’s understandable question (wouldn’t you have said the same thing?) Jesus starts talking about “spirit.” We know what he is talking about. Our English bibles translate the word as “Spirit.” We know he’s talking about God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit. But for Nick there might have been a greater ambiguity. The Greek word pneuma can be translated as wind, or breath, as well as spirit. So what is Jesus talking about? Breathing? or the weather? or God?

If this is the case, why does Jesus rebuke Nick for not understanding?

The best explanation for this is that Jesus seems to have been paraphrasing Ezekiel 36:25-27, a passage that Ezekiel would probably have known by heart. This prophecy speaks of God washing his people and giving them new hearts – of them being born again – by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God.

Nick should have understood. He should have spotted what Jesus was doing – he was telling Nick a story about himself, that he was the one who was about to fulfil Ezekiel’s vision.

What had Nick come to Jesus for? We don’t know. But we know what Jesus had come for – to see the Spirit poured out on the people of God.

• Was Jesus unduly tough on Nicodemus?
• Why did Nick not spot what Jesus was saying?
• What is your experience of the Spirit?

• Praise God for English translations of the Bible!
• Praise Jesus that he came to enact the promise of new life in the hearts of his people.
• Praise God that we have received the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit.

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