For most of us, spiritual growth moves along a continuum of four distinct stages. (see RenewalWorks of Forward Movement). In our reading, it would seem that Nicodemus is at Stage 1, with his struggle to apply his literal understanding to metaphorical concepts. But, as you read further in John’s Gospel, Nicodemus seems to grow in faith. He defends Jesus against the angry authorities. Later, he claims Jesus’ body from the cross for anointing and burial. Arrogant scrutiny under the cover of night that moved to humble service in the light of day. We know that a person can attend worship every Sunday or be really busy in church work and not be spiritual growing. The Nicodemus we encounter in this reading can attest to that. Spiritual growth requires something more—a loving, relational encounter. Remember, this is what is at the core of the Trinity.
Beginning of the meeting
Read the reflection above. Quiet yourself. Become more aware of God’s presence. Open yourself to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following passage. What images and impressions come to mind as you read or hear the text?
John 3:1-17 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised
3 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ 3 Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ 4 Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ 5 Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, 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 a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 ‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just 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, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Reflect on these questions for a few moments in silence, then turn to another person and discuss.
- The difference between knowing about God and being in a relationship with God has been compared to the difference between reading a menu and eating the meal. What are your thoughts and feelings about this statement?
- What helps you be in a relationship with Jesus and spiritually grow?
- It seems that Nicodemus became more confident and perhaps more loving and humble as he spiritually grew. What changes do you see in yourself or others as they spiritually grow? Does this frighten, excite, comfort or concern you?
After a few minutes bring the small group discussion to a close and invite people to talk about their insights and reflections in the larger group.
Invite the people to quiet themselves, take a posture of prayer and conclude by play a recording of “God So Loved the World” by John Stainer.
End of the meeting
Read the passage once again and ask how God’s Good News has been known in your time together.