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Read John 3:1-21
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." (NIV)
This is one of the more familiar passages in Scripture to many a believer. Yet, it is so memorable that we often simply pass by it quickly in our reading and devotion. We begin with Nicodemus. Nicodemus is not only a Pharisee, but a wealthy and influential person. It is he who goes and redeems Jesus’ body with the Roman authorities – that takes some wealth and prestige. So, for Nicodemus to come to Jesus, there was something lacking in his life that all he was doing had not satisfied. There was a calling in him. And this same calling is in all of us. God calls us to him every day.
Nicodemus begins with signs and wonders (vs 2). But Jesus comes back with that it is not these miraculous signs that are important, but the change inside a person that is. We must be born again of the spirit which Nicodemus has a hard time understanding. Jesus uses the Greek word, “anothen” which is translated “again.” This Greek word has three different kinds of meaning. The first is from the beginning, completely, radically. This is the sense when doing music that a conductor will tell the orchestra to do it again, but adds some notes as to how he or she wants it different this time. The second is simply for a second time. And the third is from above and therefore from God. Now Nicodemus is hearing it as the second way of interpreting. Simply being born a second time. But Jesus seems to encompass all three meaning in one word. We are born again in a radically new sense and it comes from above. Jesus goes on to tell Nicodemus that his thinking of the flesh and he is talking of the Spirit. It is our spirit that is dying just as our body when we are born. It is the spirit that needs to take on new life and a new immortality. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Jesus then moves to why he has come to earth. He came that we might have life. He came to share the love of the father. He came to save the world by being lifted up as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert. This goes back to when God released poisonous snakes upon the people of Israel during the exodus. They had misbehaved. But God in sending punishment also sent salvation in that he had Moses craft a snake on a pole and all who looked up to the snake Moses carried would not die if bitten by the snakes. It was truly a test of taking our eyes off our problem and looking up for our solution. This is what Jesus brings us. We must look up to him as our solution and our savior.
If we believe this, then we want to be people who live in the light as he concludes this talk with Jesus. We don’t want to get too hung up in this passage that Nicodemus came at night. There are many of reasons why and they are not all bad as one might seem. At night, Nicodemus could get Jesus’ undivided attention. We need to have times in our lives where we can give Jesus our undivided attention.
What does this passage mean to you? What does it mean to believe in Jesus?
Blessings and Peace