Summary: What we must do to be saved has been the subject of debate, what does Jesus say?
I Must WHAT???
This is part one of a series on the subject of being Born Again.
John Chapter 3 introduces a man named Nicodemus and highlights an interview between Jesus and Nicodemus. This is much like a private Bible study where one is actually freed to ask any question of the “teacher” without hesitation or embarrassment. I enjoy teaching like that because people are freer in their questions and the responses are actually clearer.
Who is Nicodemus? From the text, we gather that he is an elite teacher, we also learn in the Gospels he is in the Council. The Bible dictionaries describe him as a Pharisee who is a member of the Sanhedrin. He is a learned, educated man especially in matters of doctrine and the Law. Nicodemus sits daily with other Pharisees debating and discussing matters of Law and God. They sit pondering and resolving dilemmas such as “how much is too much?” How far can we go before our actions are breaking one of the commandments? Legalistic issues to keep us as close to the edge without falling off. Now he wants to know how this “prophet” from Nazareth fits with their scheme of things.
He comes at night. Why, well that has been the subject of debate for Centuries. I must admit it is one I was caught up on for years. Was it so he would not be seen with Jesus? Was it so he could have a private audience? We really do not know, personally I lean toward the latter. What it really comes down to is it does not matter why.
He comes in and sees Jesus with his disciples, common people, fishermen, tax collectors, carpenters. Mostly people that highbrow people like Nicodemus look down on. Upon seeing Jesus, he starts with a beautiful flattering greeting. "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."
This is to show Jesus that Nicodemus has done his homework on him. Where he heard Jesus, we do not know, did he actually see a miracle of Jesus before this meeting, we don’t know, could it be that he had just heard of the things Jesus said and done, possibly, but we don’t really know. This greeting is smooth flattery, and possibly Nicodemus was hoping for a similar greeting from Jesus.
Oh, yes Nicodemus, I must say you are a learned man; you know the Law and are a good Pharisee.
I am not sure I would be comfortable with anyone saying that about me.
Yet no hospitable chitchat, no accolades, no mention of his good conduct, or his academic standing, Jesus cuts right to the heart of the matter. He answers the question that is not asked. Could Nicodemus been thinking it, possibly, Jesus has been known to read minds.
"I tell you the truth; no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Simply put Jesus is saying that our best efforts will not do, our good works do not matter, good intentions do not count for anything, and unless we are born again we cannot see what God is up to. People like Nicodemus would live by the motto “Give God your best and He does the rest.” Jesus says “No way Jose’” Your best will not do.
The term “Born Again” has been misused and misunderstood. The phrase is in the Greek, gennethenai anothen, which translated literally means to be born from above.
This expression “Born Again”, point to the saving activity of God imparting spiritual life to his people and in restoring all of creation to its original perfect state.
To understand this we must come to grips with our condition before. Before Christ we were dead in our sins. Before Christ we were enemies of God. Before Christ we were lost. Now this great chasm exists between God and man. This is the Continental divide of scripture. Nicodemus, like us, stands on one side and Jesus on the other.
Jesus tells us simply, if we want to be with God, if we want to crossover and know that we can spend eternity with God in heaven, we must be Born Again.
Nicodemus then asks the question that we should ask. How can we be born again? How can we have this do-over? Nicodemus is looking at the physical; can a man enter into his mother’s womb again? Those who believe in reincarnation look at it that way. It is a teaching of Hindu, keep getting born again until we get it right. Problem is, we can physically be born again a thousand times and still not get it right. Jesus tells us, with God we can get it right, we can have the renewal we desire, we have to do it his way.