Who has seen the wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

This is a poem by Christina Rosetti1 which I learned as a child.

Reading

John 3: 1-15

Introduction

Trinity Sunday is when we celebrate the whole of God’s character and how God uses it for our benefit. I am not going to try and discuss theories about the Holy Trinity as whole libraries of books have been written about that with many writers disagreeing with other writers. Instead I want to look at this passage and what it is about and see how each aspect of the Holy Trinity is at work.

First of all let us look at what we often declare we believe about the Holy Trinity in parts of two creeds. (A creed just means something we believe from Latin credo, to believe).

Apostles’ creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
Father God

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
The Son (both human and God, son of Man and son of God)

Nicene Creed

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
The Holy Spirit

Looking at the passage

The main character in this passage is Jesus. Jesus as we have seen from the creeds we believe was, is and will be God but at this time he is in human form so that he can start to transform the world starting with the Jewish people. Jesus himself says this in verse 13:

And nobody has gone up into heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the son of man.

‘Son of man’ means a human being but was also used about the Messiah the Jews expected and is a title Jesus often used of himself.

Jesus is having a discussion with Nicodemus, a Pharisee. They were Jewish people who were religious and disliked the way people were living in Judea in Jesus’ time. Jesus agreed with most of their ideas but disliked the fact that they did not live up to their ideals themselves.

They did not practise what they preached.
(Matthew 23:3)

Nicodemus recognises that God is at work in Jesus and genuinely what’s to know what Jesus thinks and visits him. Nicodemus is surprised because Jesus does not have a deep theological discussion with him but tells him he must be reborn from above (literally in Greek) or ‘born again’ as in some translations. Nicodemus is also confused and thinks that Jesus is talking about physical birth so no one can possibly be born twice physically. However Jesus explains that this is not being physically born again but asking the Holy Spirt to live within us and change us.

When we become Christians we need to show the world at baptism or confirmation that we wish to be Christian and change but actual change requires the action of that aspect of God we call the Holy Spirit who has the power with our consent to completely change who we are, what we think and how we behave. This is being born again, born from above or baptised in the spirit.

There is a real danger in that the Holy Spirit may lead you where you had never thought of going or doing what you had never thought of doing but the Holy Spirit is always challenging people to work more and more for God’s purposes (which is what ‘being holy’ really means not being religious).

The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound it makes; but you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going to. That’s what it’s like with someone who is born from the spirit.
(Verse John 3:8 – NTE)

Note the connection with the Christina Rosetti poem. ‘Spirit’ and ‘wind’ are the same word in both Hebrew and Greek. So we could call the Spirit the Holy Wind but it does not sound quite so good!

Unlike baptism in water, we should be continuing to more and more to be born of the spirit or in other words living our lives for God.

Nicodemus was a religious man who thought rituals and following moral rules were what was required. Jesus tells him not that these were wrong but that serving God required something else and something different; changing your life and for that you needed the Holy Spirit to give you the new birth.

Sometimes people today can believe that having once been baptised and or confirmed and going to church regularly makes them good Christians but while these things are good, Jesus makes it clear that you need to change as a person as well to genuinely be a Christian and really serve God.

The last part of this passage may seem confusing if you do not know the background story.

So, just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, in the same way the son of man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may share in the life of God’s new age.
(Verse John 3:14-15 – NTE)

It refers back to an incident when the Jews were leaving Egypt (which is what we call the Exodus) and is found in Numbers 21:

They travelled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

This may seem an odd connection to this story but Moses’ ‘snake pole’ saved people from dying – so here Jesus says he (‘son of man’ again) will be lifted up which refers this time to him being on a pole and crucified. This will again save God’s people from dying but save them not just for a limited time (all the people of the Exodus died eventually) but this time forever as because of this they will be alive in the life to come after physical death.

So here is God (or Father God or YHWH) working through Moses, an ordinary man, about 1500 years before and now through Jesus; God-made-man. Jesus is talking about God’s Holy Spirit living in us so we can see three different sides if you like of God: Father, Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit working together for God’s master plan to get people to work with God to become better (more holy), to bring people into the Kingdom so that life will be better on the earth now. As we say in Lord’s Prayer

Your Kingdom come Your will be done on earth as in heaven

and, in addition to that, to allocate a place for those same people beyond the end of this physical life into a new life in the age to come.
Amen.


Gordon MackleyPosted on Tuesday, 12th June, 2018 by Gordon Mackley (based on his talk in church on Sunday evening 26th May – Trinity Sunday).



Footnote:

1. Christina Rossetti, 1830 – 1894 – Source: The Golden Book of Poetry (1947)


Web Admin

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: