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“I do not understand”

May 24, 2023

Daily Scripture

John 3:1-18

1 There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew [Or from above], it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.”
4 Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?”
5 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ 8 God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said, “How are these things possible?”
10 “Jesus answered, “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things? 11 I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One [or Son of Man]. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One [or Son of Man] be lifted up 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him isn’t judged; whoever doesn’t believe in him is already judged, because they don’t believe in the name of God’s only Son.


Daily Reflection & Prayer

In Jesus Revolution, the pastor said, “If God brings me a hippie, I’ll ask him what it’s all about—because I do not understand.” Something similar happened to a Hebrew teacher and scholar named Nicodemus. He came (at night—not ready to risk his status as a leader) to talk with Jesus. He tried to understand Jesus’ words about being “born again.” (They may be a serious pun—the Greek word translated “again” also meant “from above.”) Understanding is a key step in reaching across divides.

  • John said Nicodemus came to Jesus “by night” (verse 2). Jesus had challenged the Pharisees’ power and authority, so Nicodemus likely needed the darkness so other Pharisees didn’t see him with Jesus. That night, Jesus invited Nicodemus to live in the light of God’s kingdom. Evidence suggests that their talk changed Nicodemus (cf. John 7:45-52; John 19:38-42). In what kinds of darkness did you come to Jesus? How has God brought you from the darkness into the light?
  • Many of Nicodemus’s fellow Pharisees did not believe God loved “the world”—only certain properly pious parts of it. How did Jesus’ statement that God so loved the world shape the pastor’s outreach to the hippies in Jesus Revolution? But that famous verse was not the “mic drop” end of the passage. It went right on to lay out big effects in the following verses. How do verses 17 and 18 speak to (and maybe shift) the mental images you learned about how God looks at you?

Lord Jesus, give me more of your willingness to understand and connect even with people like Nicodemus, who might at first seem like “enemies.” Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Gwyn Thomas

Gwyn Thomas

Gwyn Thomas joined the Resurrection staff in 2021 and serves in donor relations. She’s a Boston native and moved to Kansas City in 2020 when her husband Blake accepted a call at Resurrection West to lead their student ministries! Her favorite pasttimes include pottery, hiking, frisbee, trying new restaurants, and spending time with Blake and their large orange cat, Tuna.

I am especially drawn to verse 8 in today’s Scripture passage from John, chapter 3: “God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” I love the imagery of God’s spirit blowing right through our lives at any time. “You hear its sound” so you are keenly aware of its presence. I’m reflecting on what God’s spirit sounds like to me. When I am paying attention to God’s spirit, I am usually in a quiet space–outside on a walk or reading my Bible in our comfiest chair. In those moments, God’s spirit sounds like birds outside or my soft playlist I created for background noise as I read Scripture. But what about when I am not paying attention? I often leave social settings reflecting on God’s goodness in my life through my friends, family and husband. When I reminisce on those moments, God’s spirit sounds like boisterous laughter, music that you can’t help but dance to, loud east coast Thanksgiving dinners, and sweet “I love yous.”   

The verse continues with “but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going.” My obvious reflection on this verse is that we never can anticipate how and when God’s spirit will enter our day and when we’ll notice its presence. You can’t anticipate who will bring the spirit into your day and how that will transform your energy, momentum and path. But then there’s an invitation Jesus wants us to consider–“It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” That we are given the freedom to ebb and flow through the world and bring God’s spirit with us always. It reminds me of the concept of the butterfly effect. If you haven’t heard of this concept, in simple terms it’s the idea that a butterfly can flap its wings on one side of the world, causing a typhoon on the other side of the world. Conceptually we know this is not possible, but it drives the point that a small wind can create a big impact. I don’t know how small God’s spirited wind feels to you, but I’d like you to consider how small your wind might feel and know it can have a ripple effect in places you can’t begin to imagine.  

I am so grateful to share a church with so many world-changers. Today I will be leaning into how my small interactions are God’s spirit, and God has the power to move freely in transformative ways. I will never fully understand how it all works, so I can relate to Nicodemus’ questions. But being a vessel for this movement is enough for me to send out an extra smile today.

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.