Saving Nicodemus


August 17, 2020

John 3:5-15 (NIV)

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know,and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”


Nicodemus is stuck in the box of conventional religion. Jesus works to bring him into the wide open, mysterious place of Holy Spirit filled faith. Remember from yesterday:

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

See how Nicodemus is bumping up against the cardboard walls of his religious box. Today, Jesus might put it like this, “Just because you are in the church doesn’t mean you see the Kingdom.” I’ll risk offense and take it a step further: Just because you’ve been baptized doesn’t mean you are a real Christian. Jesus takes something we understand to teach about us something we can’t yet comprehend. In this instance, birth.

We are kept from seeing the light of revelation because we are blinded by the light we already see.

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

What are we to do? I must humble myself and confess that my own knowledge is incomplete; that my own experience is inadequate; that my religious reputation must be put in the ground so true faith might arise in its place.

Nicodemus blindly trusted in his heritage—his first birth. All the while Jesus offered him an inheritance—the second birth. He will quietly wrestle with this in the hidden shadows as the gospel publicly unfolds. We will hear from him again.

Tomorrow we will gather around the most famous words in all of the Bible.


Abba Father, thank you for your son, Jesus, who patiently works with us, persuading with out pushing, that we might let go of the old so something genuinely new might happen. Come Holy Spirit and fill us with courage to let go of that which will not matter in the end so we might take up what endlessly matters to you. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.


1. Can you remember/recount an experience of waking up from boxed-in religion and breaking into living faith?

2. What keeps us in our boxes? Why will we not humble ourselves? Think about the pain and struggle of the labor that precedes birth? Play that analogy out with the notion of the second birth.

3. Reflect on the difference between a heritage and an inheritance. (Note: heritage can also be a source of immense brokenness) What is it time for you to let go of? What do you hope might be born in its wake?



If you’re a pastor, we have a bit of a roadmap for the months ahead that we want to share with you. I think it will help with planning in this unpredictable COVID season. Let us know here.

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

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