Read John 3:1-36
1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, "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."
3In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." 4"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
5Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8The 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."
9"How can this be?" Nicodemus asked. 10"You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven — the Son of Man. 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
16"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. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
22After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. 24(This was before John was put in prison.) 25An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan — the one you testified about — well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him."
27To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' 29The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30He must become greater; I must become less.
31"The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (NIV)
The 3rd Chapter of John has two stories in it. The first is Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. At the end of the 2nd chapter of John, John states that when Jesus was in Jerusalem, many believed because of the he did. The Jewish Midrash states, “If a prophet who begins to prophesy (i.e. one who is still unaccredited) gives a sign and miracle, he is to be listened to, otherwise he is not to be heeded.” And so, here John introduces us to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin coming to Jesus at night and giving Jesus the title of Rabbi. Jesus accepts the title by answering Nicodemus’ question in verse 2. Jesus’ answer is perplexing to Nicodemus as Jesus say one can only see the Kingdom of God is one is born anew. Now the Greek is literally translated, “Begotten from above.”
Now the Nicodemus confuses this statement to a literal new physical birth and not a spiritual birth. So Jesus clarifies this to mean born of water and the Spirit which refers to the work of baptism. But by verse 8, Jesus further clarifies it to just being born of the spirit. Jesus then talks about the unpredictable nature of the wind and compares it to the unpredictable nature of the Spirit. Some have noted that Jesus is referring to the spontaneity of the diving action in renewing a person’s spiritual nature. God’s actions comes upon us and moves us in ways we cannot predict always.
When Nicodemus asks how this can be, Jesus asks back how can he not understand. When Jesus refers to his speaking of earthly things, he means the Kingdom of God that each person enters as they live out their lives here. Jesus then talks about heavenly things which can only be revealed by him, the one who has entered heaven and come now to earth. It is through our faith in Jesus that we begin to connect the earthly Kingdom of God with the Kingdom of Heaven. Our journey in Christ opens us each day to new revelations of God’s greatness.
Jesus then connects this rebirth with healing by talking about his needing to be lifted up much as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert. This refers to the time that God let loose snakes upon the people during the exodus. They would only be healed if they looked up at the bronze snake Moses was instructed to make and carry throughout the camp.
John then has Jesus utter these most familiar words that speak to this healing, this spiritual rebirth and Jesus’ purpose. “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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned.” This is a wonderful summation of Christ’s work and our response to Christ’s work, which is to believe in Jesus.”
Jesus then speaks to why we shy away. We do not light to have our sin exposed. It is painful and yet necessary for our salvation. We must enter the light of Christ to be saved. We must acknowledge of sinful nature.
And this is one of the points of baptism that John connects with the story of Nicodemus. He transitions to say that Jesus and his disciples went out to the same place that John was baptizing and baptized. John’s followers were dismayed that more were now going to Jesus than John. And John says that this is a great thing, not a bad thing. And this is something churches sometimes struggle with. A person who has not accepted Christ comes to know Christ through the ministries of a church, but then decides to join another church. Instead of rejoicing that one had found Christ, they lament that they are not in their church. We need to focus on sharing Christ, not making members of churches. If we are doing Christ’s will, we will get our share of members to keep going.
As you contemplate this passage from John, what does it mean to you to be born again? Can you see change in your life since accepting Christ? It there new growth? If yes, then rejoice and continue on this great journey of healing. Do you see this growth as healing? Or something else?
Blessings and Peace