Reflections: Friday of the Fifth Week of Epiphany

February 9, 2024 

Today’s Reading: 

Daily Lectionary: Job 6:1-13; John 3:1-21

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.” John 3:5

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Nicodemus knew much. He was a Pharisee. He was a ruler of the Jews. He was a teacher of Israel. He knew the Bible by heart. 

In today’s language, Nicodemus was “a Bible preacher.” If you would have heard Nicodemus’s sermons, he would’ve been quoting the Bible left and right. He taught the Law. He kept the Torah. The Ten Commandments came off his lips as easily as talking about the weather. He knew many other commandments, too, commandments the Pharisees designed to keep good order, to show people how to live, to make sure everyone does everything the right way. Nicodemus knew much, he could teach you much. But he did not know how to receive gifts.

Not knowing how to receive gifts, expecting everything to come by way of works—that describes not only Nicodemus, but each of us according to our life of sinful flesh.  Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. Privately. Almost as if he knew that he would hear things from Jesus that a good Pharisee should not hear, but he wanted to hear it anyway. 

The first thing Nicodemus hears turns his world upside down. “Jesus answered [Nicodemus], Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

This is different. Not the part about the kingdom of God. Nicodemus knew how to talk like that. He himself had taught it to many. To see the kingdom of God, you obey the Law, you keep the Torah, you live a clean life. But what is this “born again” Jesus speaks of?

Birth—that’s not something you accomplish. No baby is born by being obedient.

To make the kingdom of God a matter of birth removes it from the realm of obedience or something you do. What baby was ever born because he made a decision to be conceived, or was brought into the open air of the hospital room because he called God into his heart? 

Jesus gives Nicodemus, and us, to see the Gospel. Being born is receptive, it’s passive. This is all the work of Jesus toward you. It is delivered to you as a gift by the Holy Spirit, who gives you the new birth (John 3:8).  In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Baptized into Your name most holy,  O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, 

I claim a place, though weak and lowly,  Among Your saints, Your chosen host.

Buried with Christ and dead to sin, Your Spirit now shall live within. Amen. (LSB 590:1)

-Pastor Warren Graff is retired from Grace Lutheran Church, Albuquerque.

Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Jonathan Lackey is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, Vine Grove, Ky.

The Lutheran Reader’s Bible helps you develop a habit of devotion and Bible reading so you can slowly but intentionally understand and grow in God’s Word. Through introductions to the sixty-six books of the Bible, guided reading plans, and more, this Bible builds your confidence to study Scripture on your own.