John 3: 1-21

August 16, 2019 | 4 minute read
Matt Kinniburgh


Scripture Reading:

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

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

 “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!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 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.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 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. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.


Back in November, I found myself holding my newborn son in my bathroom—my wife in the bathtub having just delivered him—and an emergency dispatch operator on speakerphone. I sat there stunned. “What just happened? This was not the plan.” We live in a rural setting a half an hour from the closest hospital with a delivery ward, and so at the first sign of labour, the plan was to head to the hospital and have the baby there. The plan went off course almost immediately when, at the hospital, they decided that the baby was not ready to come and sent us home. Having experienced this before with our daughter, we drove home and went to bed. An hour later, I stood there, holding my baby in the bathroom, waiting for the paramedics to come.

Control is an interesting idea; we tend to control our circumstances, our image, our ministries, those around us, and—if we are truly honest with ourselves—God. However, there are some things that remind us that we are not completely in control—like childbirth.

In John 3:1-21, there is a story about a Pharisee named Nicodemus. He is a member of the Jewish ruling council; he is a man used to being in control. He sees something incredible in Jesus, both in His teaching and His miracles, and he wants to meet Jesus, but does not pursue Him in the synagogue or in the streets. We read that “he came to Jesus at night” (John 3:2). Why night? What if Nicodemus is attempting to control his image here? This rabbi, Jesus, is an upstart and not everyone likes Him—especially the other Pharisees. Would Nicodemus be seen as giving Jesus his stamp of approval if he went to Him? How would the other Pharisees feel about him if they knew?

Nicodemus goes to Jesus and acknowledges that Jesus has come from God. Jesus immediately switches gears on him and talks about being born again, and Nicodemus asks how, Jesus responds by saying, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit… 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” (John 3:5-8).

Jesus reveals to Nicodemus something essential about life in the Spirit—the Spirit blows where He blows. Nicodemus is not in control. We are not in control. Life in the Spirit is a life of surrendering control and asking the Spirit, “what are You doing?” As we go about our Kingdom work, we cannot be so arrogant as to think we are in control. We can make our plans, our five-year goals, our seven steps to…but what will we do if the Spirit starts moving in another direction? What will win—our strategy or the Spirit? A good practice is to start the day by praying a prayer of submission like, “Spirit, please interrupt my plans today for Your plans.”


Spirit of God interrupt us today with how You are moving. Give us the courage to go where You are going and the self-control to say no to our wills. Amen.

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Matt Kinniburgh

Matthew and his wife, Samantha, live in a small town just west of Edmonton, Alberta, with their four young children. After completing his Master of Theological Studies at McMaster Divinity College, Matt became the Youth and Young Adults Pastor at Stony Plain Alliance Church in 2017. He is an avid Calgary Flames fan living in “enemy territory”.

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