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The “Gospel in a Nutshell”

Lent 2022

Read John 3:1-21

1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And 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.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Luther once said, “This Gospel (John 3:16-21) is one of the most magnificent passages to be found in the whole New Testament; and were it possible, worthy to be inscribed with golden letters into our hearts. Every Christian ought to learn this comforting text by heart and repeat it every day, so that the words might become second nature to us, and their meaning might become ever clearer. For they are the kind of words that can gladden a sorrowful heart and enliven a person who has lost all hope of life, if he would but accept them in faith.”1

It is the Gospel in a nutshell. God loved. God gave. God saved. Additionally, it is helpful for us to read it in the context of the full conversation with Nicodemus, where it is made clear how Christ applies His saving work to us individually. Through water and the Spirit, we are reborn; born from above. Through our baptism, we are made children of God. This echoes back to John 1:13 where we see that this is not done by any of the earthly ways families are made. We aren’t children by blood, marriage, legal adoption, or any other human decision. This is something far beyond this world. It is God’s work, accomplished through Christ, poured out on each of us with water accompanied by the Spirit.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, impress these verses upon my heart, that the magnitude of Jesus’ words would continually resonate within me and I would receive peace and joy from them. Amen.

1 From a sermon preached by Luther in 1534. The House Postils, Vol. 2; Eugene Klug, Baker Books 1996 p. 195.

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