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. – John 3:16
I always wondered if Jesus was really tired that night and just wanted to be in bed, but then Nicodemus showed up and so instead he had to stay up half the night trying to pound some serious theology into N’s thick skull, and then say the most famous verse in the Bible while he was at it.
I am way behind in my Bible studies and prayer time and feeling it. Over tired, run down, depressed, overwhelmed by all that’s happening in the world as well as my own little corner of it. My ability to cope is directly correspondent to how closely I am walking with God. I am nothing without my prayer time (my alone time with God), and without studying His Word. So back to it! Anyway I’ve read quite a ways past this chapter but keep coming back and re-reading it. “YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN.” Something is nagging at me. Something needs to be dragged out into the daylight and analyzed.
Nicodemus was a big shot. A Pharisee, and a member of the ruling council. He met with Jesus at nighttime. Why nighttime? Maybe just because the crowds would have gone home and he could have a peaceful chat. Maybe he was afraid of being seen by his peers. Maybe he was busy all day and the night was the only free time he had. We aren’t told, but I wonder.
It sounds like he’s just trying to lay the groundwork for the conversation he wants to have with Jesus when he says, “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.” (v. 2). I wonder what he’s tiptoeing around. Trying to get Jesus to confess whether or not he is the Messiah? Maybe. If Nicodemus had ever read the book of Daniel (chapter 9) and done the math, he would have known that it was just about the time that the Messiah was supposed to show up.
There’s a lot of room for pure speculation here. Maybe Jesus didn’t look the way Nicodemus thought the Messiah ought to look. Maybe Jesus’ Galilean country accent and working-class family was off-putting to someone raised in elite society. Maybe Nicodemus expected a bold warrior like David. Maybe he thought when the Messiah came there would be no question who he was. And this modest man from Galilee, walking around like a beggar with his ragtag band of misfit disciples, didn’t fit that picture at all. But the Bible doesn’t give us Nicodemus’ inner thoughts so we can only guess.
But then Jesus takes the conversation in a whole different direction. He starts talking about our need to be born again. This blindsides Nicodemus, who doesn’t have a clue what Jesus is talking about.
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
“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!”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (v. 3-6)
There is a lot more in this passage that needs to be read, but for now I am thinking about what it means to be “born again.” As Christians we’ve heard it so many times we forget its powerful meaning. My NIV notes say that the Greek for that phrase can also mean “born from above.” There is so much in Jesus’ words and I can’t quite get my head around it. “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.”
My little nephew, if he heard that, would cock his head to one side, curl his upper lip up just a bit and say “HUH?” I think most people in my own society would say that, and we are considered a “Christian” nation. For people in different cultures, especially those ones that actively discourage Christianity, it must be completely baffling. It is a topic of upmost importance and I don’t want to blow off the significance of this passage without digging more deeply into the whys and hows of being born again in Christ. My next few entries are going to do just that, starting at the beginning.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EXCITING CHAPTER! or, HOW DID THIS PLANET GET INTO THE BIG STINKING MESS THAT IT’S IN?
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved . . . For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. – Romans 10:9-13