John 3-3.21

There was one of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Judean council, who came to Jesus by night. “Rabbi,” he said, “We know that you are a teacher sent by God; no one could perform these signs of yours unless God were with him.”

Jesus answered, “In truth, in very truth I tell you, unless a man has been born over again he cannot see the reign of God.”

“But how is it possible,” said Nicodemus, “for a man to be born when he is old? Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”

Jesus answered, “In truth I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born from water and spirit. Meat can give birth only to meat; it is spirit that gives birth to spirit. You shouldn’t be astonished, then, when I tell you you must be born over again.

“The wind blows where it wishes; you hear the sound of it; but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So with everyone who is born from spirit.”

Nicodemus replied, “How is this possible?”

“What?” said Jesus. “Is this famous teacher of Israel ignorant of such things? In very truth I tell you, we speak of what we know, and testify to what we have seen, and yet you reject all our testimony. If you disbelieve me when I talk to you about things on earth, how are you to know if I should talk about the Heavens?

“No one ever went up into Heaven except the one who came down from Heaven, the son of Adam whose home is in Heaven. This son of Adam must be lifted up as the serpent was lifted up by Moses in the wilderness, so that everyone who has faith in him may possess eternal life.

“God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, that everyone who has faith in him may not die but have eternal life. It was not to condemn the world that God sent his son into the world, but that through him the world might be saved.

“The man who puts his faith in him does not come under judgment; but the unbeliever has already been judged in that he has not given his allegiance to God’s only son. Here lies the test: The light has come into the world; but men preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil. Bad men all hate the light and avoid it, for fear that their practices would be shown up. The honest man comes to the light so that it may be clearly seen that God is in all he does.”

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3 responses

  1. Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. ~John 4.34This meat appears as sustenance, whereas in John 3 it seems to represent the physical manifestation of humans, as opposed to the spiritual awakening in them.If we are born of spirit, it is another kind of birth. In context of major cycles of spiritual evolution I can see this passage In context of a soliditary human life, it makes less sense.Nicodemus seems to be a doubter. There also seems to be tie between knowing and faith, underscording their similarity. That what we sense of the light in the world should tip us off that the divine is within us now.

  2. You're saying it makes more sense as "Unless you go through more than one incarnation you can't get it"? That makes sense, especially if the Hasidic belief in reincarnation goes back to this period, as who knows?I can also read it in a one-lifetime, state of mind sense: "If 'where you are coming from'= 'how you are conceiving of your existence' is about keeping your meat alive, you will think of life one way, while if you recognize yourself as intrinsically spiritual it puts you into an entirely different world."So is this saying, as it seems to, that God will Get you if you don't uncritically swallow this doctrine? That kind of smugish implication makes this sort of passage muy distasteful to me–but I can also read it as: "People will be stuck in samsara, maya, etc until they wise up, come clean, give their allegiance to their spiritual center." Which sounds like a different formulation of what Buddha was getting at. Except here we aren't getting that rejection of all desire, just the viewpoint that makes us imagine that we have to get all that our meat-bods would like.

  3. I can't help but look at this entire Gospel in the context of Hellenistic mystery religions. There is some of this that would seem familiar to an initiate of the Eleusinian Mysteries for instance. Also, my feminist body-centered spirituality winces at some of this language. Still…I also see this as a pretty good verse for Friends. I found a neat little commentary (Cokesbury Basic Bible Commentary: John by Norman Madsen). In it, Madsen reminds us that the Greek word for wind is pneuma which also means spirit. Jesus seems to be telling Nicodemus that despite his religious training, he is having difficulty hearing the Spirit. What a good verse for Friends' historical distaste for hireling ministry. Madsen writes that we can read Jesus' words as "The Spirit unites humanity with God in fellowship…Listen closely for the sound of the Spirit. Strain to listen in spite of your religious training. Allow the Spirit to freely lead you to God. Rely upon the Spirit and not your religious training."

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