Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
Sacrament of Holy Baptism
V. 3. In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Baptism is the Christian rite of initiation practiced by almost all who profess to embrace the Christian faith. The practice is in direct obedience to the explicit mandate of the Lord (Matt. 28:16-20). Seven sacraments are administered in the Mar Thoma Church. Baptism is one of the two sacraments instituted and associated with our Lord known as Dominical Sacraments. The ceremony of Baptism is an indispensable means of becoming a member of the Christian Church. Baptism is an outward act of an inner experience. It is a faith-union with Christ, and an identification with the death and resurrection of Christ (New Testament Studies - Rev. Dr. M.V. Abraham). Apostle Paul writes in his letter to Romans, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were, therefore, buried with Him through Baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (6:3-4). It is important that the baptized individual (child or adult) should continue to grow in the faith which was professed at Baptism.
The Bible passage (John 3:1-8) is an account of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee, a high-ranking Jewish rabbi, an esteemed teacher of Israel and a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. The Pharisees placed their trust in the outward observance of the Law but neglected to purify the heart. Apostle John tells us that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. He chose to come to Jesus by night for fear of Jews as we see in John 7:50 and 19:39. Jesus didn’t refuse to receive him for that reason. Jesus knew exactly what was going on in his heart and chose to speak not to his words but directly to his heart. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus dedicated his whole life to obedience to the Law. It appears that Jesus was saying, “Nicodemus, you have spent your entire life doing things for God. And tragically you have missed the point. It’s not about what you can do for God. It’s about what God wants to do in you.”
Later, on His way back from Judea to His native Galilee, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well (John chapter 4). The contrast between these two individuals could hardly be more extreme. The Samaritan is a nameless, immoral woman who meets Jesus in the heat of day, probably because she is too ashamed to draw water when other people are at the well. In both instances, Jesus directed the conversation to what He perceives to be the central issue of their hearts. In Nicodemus case, his need to be born again, and in the case of the Samaritan woman, her need to repent from her sinful lifestyle and to trust Jesus the Messiah.
Nicodemus began his conversation, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with Him” (v. 2). Jesus immediately spoke to him of the concerns of his soul. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (v. 3). It is equally important for us as well to understand the meaning of Jesus’ declaration. That is, if we desire to see the Kingdom of God, we must also be born again. It was difficult for Nicodemus to understand the notion of a new beginning and a decisive inner transformation of a person’s life
(v. 9). The concept of a new spiritual birth is similar to that of a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). During subsequent conversation, Jesus made Nicodemus understand his need to be “born from above.”
Would Nicodemus be open to acknowledge his spiritual need and humble himself before God? Would he be receptive to this new revelation? The later chapters of John’s gospel (7 and 19) give us the answer of his conversion to be a disciple of Jesus. Now, it is our turn to be convinced ourselves of the need to be born again as well.
Loving and Gracious Father may our understanding of who we are in Christ grow today so that we may walk in the victorious life You have secured for us by Your sacrificial death. Help us by Your Holy Spirit to understand the need for a spiritual transformation in our lives. Amen.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
God became man to turn creatures into sons; not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. C.S. Lewis.
Daniel Thomas, Orlando MTC, Florida
Christian Education Forum, Diocese of NAE of the Mar Thoma Church