Reuniting the Material and the Spiritual, Part 1

Reuniting the Material and the Spiritual, Part 1 May 21, 2024



Our reading from the gospels this coming weekend is from the gospel of John. In this reading, we encounter again in John why we must today reunite the material and the spiritual.

Welcome Readers! Please subscribe to Social Jesus Here.

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. (John 3:1-17)

If we are going to reunite the material and the spiritual, we need to understand how they became separated in the first place. In our reading this week, we encounter what scholars today describe as early Christian proto-Gnosticism. Jewish Gnosticism predates Christian Gnosticism although clear divisions between the two continue to be difficult (See Gnosticism).

Christian Gnosticism, like other forms of Gnosticism, promoted a dualistic way of understanding our experiences as flesh and spirit. Pharisaic Judaism was predominantly holistic, placing significance on our material existence along with other ways of describing how we exist in our world. The synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are all rooted in this Jewish holistic way of understanding ourselves. The synoptic gospels are deeply concerned not just with people’s spiritual needs but with their concrete, physical, and material needs as well (see Mark 2:8-11).

In our reading this week, we also see tensions that existed between the proto-gnostic, Johannine community and the Pharisees in Judaism at that time. We will begin unpacking all of this and how it may inform our own justice work today, next.

(Read Part 2)


Are you receiving all of RHM’s free resources each week?

Begin each day being inspired toward love, compassion, justice and action. Free.


About Herb Montgomery
Herb Montgomery, director of Renewed Heart Ministries, is an author and adult religious re-educator helping Christians explore the intersection of their faith with love, compassion, action, and societal justice. You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives