Do you know remember that feeling from school when you finally understood what the teacher was talking about and all of sudden she took the concept somewhere you couldn’t even imagine? Well, I think that is how Nicodemus must have felt in John 3.
He came to Jesus and said,
“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.”
This was a very humbling statement to make since Nicodemus was a Pharisee, the exact group who later went on to kill Jesus.
I’m sure Nicodemus was expecting Jesus to welcome him into this truth with a clarifying and reassuring statement, but in true Jesus fashion he responds saying,
“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
I can just picture Nicodemus hearing this and being quite taken aback. John doesn’t write an awkward pause into the encounter but I imagine Nicodemus probably pulled his head back, furrowed his eyebrows and tried to make sense of what just happened. This answer defies all logic.
“How can someone be born again when they are old?” Nicodemus asks. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born.”
Nicodemus isn’t wrong, but Jesus isn’t talking about a physical rebirth. Jesus goes on to say,
“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 spirit gives birth to spirit.”
It takes two births to enter the kingdom of God. Everyone experiences a natural, physical birth, but only believers in Christ are born again. When we are first born, we automatically enter into a relationship with the world, and this isn’t a bad thing. The world provides us with everything we need to survive– food, water, companionship–but it is our second birth that gives us eternal life. And, our second birth is only available through Christ.
Jesus tells Nicodemus,
“the Son of Man must be lifted up that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
This claim is not arrogant, but bold and inspiring. Jesus says,
“everyone who believes.”
He isn’t excluding any race, gender, age, social status, or even the Pharisees who want to kill Him; He is extending the invitation to be born again to anyone who will accept it.
John goes on to write what is probably the most famous verse of all time,
“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.”
This verse is so quotable because it is the simple gospel. Because of God’s love and sacrifice, we can be born again and live forever with him.
However, it is our choice whether or not we accept Jesus’ invitation or reject it. We are perfectly capable of living in the world. We can find everything we physically need here in the world, but our souls will still long for connection with God. Only God can satisfy the eternal craving He placed in our souls, but He can only do this if we accept the invitation to let Him. So, will you let Him?