Lent Devotion for April 8
"He Came as a Teacher"
Reader: "I tell you the truth,”
Response: "unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God."
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 48:16-18
16 Come closer, and listen to this.
From the beginning I have told you plainly what would happen.”
And now the Sovereign Lord and his Spirit
have sent me with this message.
17 This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is good for you
and leads you along the paths you should follow.
18 Oh, that you had listened to my commands!
Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river
and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.
SCRIPTURE: John 3:1-8
3 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
Reader: “The word of the Lord."
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Have you ever noticed that while God is clear about what will happen, the “how” and the “timing” are often not as specific? In the Isaiah pericope, we are not sure who has been sent with the message of the Lord. But it is quite clear that the ultimate messenger of the Sovereign Lord is none other than the Messiah. In the days leading up to the final week in Jesus’ life on earth, the crowds were kind of all over the place on the “how” and the “timing” of God’s working. Tomorrow we look at the Palm Sunday reception and see that the people were convinced of both the “how” and “timing” of God’s working. To them, it was clear. Jesus would set up His kingdom and be even a greater king than David. Jesus had been teaching all along of the nature of the Kingdom of God but the people failed to grasp it. The way of the Lord leads to ultimate peace, not simply the elusive earthly peace. When Nicodemus, a Pharisee, comes to Jesus “in the dark” literally (!), he already recognizes Jesus as a masterful teacher having been sent by God. In Nicodemus’ mind, the miracles verify the hand of God is on Jesus. Theirs is a very interesting exchange between two rabbis as such. One of the rabbinical techniques is to answer a question with another question that demonstrates you know the answer to the first question. Jesus did such often in His teaching. In this case, however, Jesus goes straight to the point and picks up on the “God is with you” comment and responds with “I tell you the truth.” The phrase means “listen very carefully. This is most significant.” (Jesus’ response to the woman at the well in John 4 follows the same pattern as His conversation with Nicodemus.) Christ does a masterful job of helping Nicodemus grasp the meaning of being born of the water and the Spirit, yet the Pharisee struggles. Jesus continues drawing from the Old Testament with the reference to Moses and the serpent in the wilderness. In this account, Jesus explains very clearly the “how” of rebirth. Notice also how in this section of the interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus, while it began with Nicodemus coming to Jesus “in the dark,” it ends (v.18) with ”those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” Take some more time to digest verses 10-21. You have the Master Teacher teaching! When you study what Jesus says, note not only what He said, but ask yourself, “Why did He use those words?” As you study the “why ” listen for the still small voice of God.
MUSIC: "A City Called Heaven” byJubilant Sykes
O Lord, teach me to listen. The times are noisy and my ears are weary with the thousand raucous sounds which continuously assault them. Give me the spirit of the boy Samuel when he said to Thee, “Speak, for thy servant heareth.” Let me hear Thee speaking in my heart. Let me get used to the sound of Thy Voice, that its tones may be familiar when the sounds of earth die away and the only sound will be the music of Thy speaking Voice. Amen.
–A.W. Tozer, from The Pursuit of God, p. 83