John 3:1-21 (Lutheran Study Bible p. 1756-1757)
Read the story over at home, by yourself and with your family
CHARACTERS: After blessing the wedding in Cana with his presence and fresh wine, JESUS goes to Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Passover. There he finds merchants and moneychangers who are making a profit off of the pilgrims and worshipers who are there to pray and make sacrifices. Jesus drives them out with a whip of cords, accusing them of abusing God’s holy house. Jesus is possibly still in Jerusalem as Chapter 3 begins. Considering the spectacle Jesus made in the temple, it was probably politically dangerous for an important leader like NICODEMUS to be seen with him. However, this Pharisee is curious and comes to Jesus by night apparently trying to hide his interest in the man from Galilee. Nicodemus will be mentioned again later in John (7:50-52 & 19:38-42).
How did you first learn where babies come from? How old were you? Do you think Jesus was too direct with Nicodemus, or not enough? What more would you like to know about “being born from above”? What does Jesus mean by comparing spiritual birth to the wind? To what does Jesus attribute Nicodemus’ lack of understanding (see vs. 11-12)? What does Jesus claim about himself in vs. 13-15? From verses 16-18, what stands out to you …about God? …about what he wants to do? …about how a person is condemned? How will belief show itself (vs. 15-21)? How is Jesus’ use of the phrase “born again” similar or different from the way you’ve heard it used by others today?
Is there someone you know whom Nicodemus reminds you of? What do you think Jesus meant when he said you have to be born again to see the kingdom of God? What first aroused your interest in Jesus? Where are you right now in the birthing process of spiritual life: Not yet conceived, Developing, but not so anyone could tell, Heavy with child and waiting, Kicking and screaming like an infant, Growing daily? Explain.
When did you begin to see God as saving you rather than condemning you? What is the most important part of this passage for you right now: the possibility of spiritual rebirth (vs. 3-7), the openness of heaven to believers (vs. 14-16), that God loved us and gave us His son (vs. 16), that God doesn’t desire to condemn us, but to save us (vs. 17-18), or that we will come to the light if we live by the truth (vs. 19-21)?
WORSHIP CONNECTIONS: “Have you been born again?” Perhaps a Christian friend has asked you this, concerned about your soul and prospects for eternal life. It sounds like it should be easy to answer, but the question is more complicated than it sounds. The meaning of that phrase “born again” is very different for Christians of different traditions.
Lutherans believe that all good things we experience in life come from God. That includes the experience of “new birth.” We cannot clench our teeth, bear down and try really hard to have faith. It is a gracious blessing that comes to us from God, and is promised to us at baptism. It includes not just an inward openness to receive God’s truth, but also membership in an outward community (the Church) to help nourish and grow our faith, and practice it in service to the world. The “new birth” is the life we live as we are guided and energized by our faith in and our following of Jesus Christ.
Our current hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (p. 225) says: “In holy baptism the triune God delivers us from the forces of evil, puts our sinful self to death, gives us new birth, adopts us as children, and makes us members of the body of Christ, the church…Although a person is baptized once, the gift of baptism continues throughout a Christian’s life…” Worship, confirmation, Christian service, church membership, and growth in faith all give us opportunities to affirm our baptism as the “new life” God gives us grows and blossoms.
PRAY FOR: people seeking answers to their faith questions, confirmands preparing to affirm their faith, people seeking a church home. Families quarantined at home due to Coronavirus concerns. Food service workers, health care workers, cashiers and attendants at grocery stores and service providers that need to stay open to keep people safe. People who have lost jobs & need food.
CATECHISM CONNECTIONS – Baptism: Wondering “how can water do such great things” as save us from sin and deliver us from the devil, Luther writes: “It is not water [only]…but God’s Word with the water and our trust in this Word.” In other words, the “new birth” given at baptism comes through the faith of those gathered in the promises (the Word) given by Christ, which He attaches to the water. Notice it’s not just the faith of the person being baptized, but the faith of all those gathered that creates the conditions for new birth.
FAMILY ACTIVITIES: Seeking for Jesus – Since Nicodemus was looking for Jesus, hide a children’s Bible or a picture of Jesus (you can print one from an internet picture) around the house. Then talk about where we really find Jesus… in the Word (show the kids where the Gospels are, that tell about his life, death & resurrection), …in deeds of love (talk about the loving things people do for each other), …in our hope and faith (pray & thank Jesus for being present)
PARENTING TIPS: see Parenting Skill #5 at "12 Skills That Good Parents Have" by David Wong.