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Lent reflection Cover Image

The new birth, John 3:1-15

14th Mar 2019

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, 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?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  (NRSV)


As I begin to reflect on Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus about new birth, I’m sat quietly, overlooking my new born Son asleep in his car seat. He’s fairly content, the lights have been dimmed, and I’m hoping that he’ll go to sleep since its 11pm and I’d like to hit the hay. I still can’t quite believe it really; it’s the most surreal experience. And if I find it difficult to believe that someone has been born for the first time, I can only imagine how Nicodemus must have felt when Jesus told him that he must be born a second time. A first birth in itself seems miraculous, a second birth even more so.

All this talk of new birth and its importance causes us to reflect on what is so wonderful about birth in the first place. Boaz, my Son, sees everything for the first time. Everything is new and fresh and exciting. He sees things in a new way. The same is true of the second birth, being born again means that we see things in a new way. Those born of the Spirit see things as they are for the first time. They find that they are loved by their heavenly Father, adopted into his family, and that they grow in the family likeness. The Spirit is making them new and helping them to grow more and more into the likeness of Jesus. With the second birth ‘the old has gone and the new has come’ and this new life doesn’t bring with it death and decay, but abounding vitality, since the Spirit is, after all, the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2). G. K. Chesterton once wrote,

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

As you reflect on new birth, may you experience the abounding vitality of birth in the Spirit, and may you participate in God’s eternal appetite of infancy. May you see things in a fresh way and be led to worship God as the giver of life!

Tim Stanyon, St John's staff