Summary: Even people like Nicodemus (religious, powerful, intelligent) need to be born again.
Today we are beginning a new three-part series on John 3 called Eternal Life: The Live Jesus Gives. This chapter begins with Jesus telling a man about the necessity of being “born again.”
Have you noticed that the world used the phrase “born again” as an expression to describe a variety of experiences? This week I did an internet search of “born again” and here’s what I learned:
• “Born again” is used to convey a sense of newness of purpose. There was an article on Guardian Unlimited about Al Gore entitled “Born Again” which tells of Gore’s new mission to save the planet.
• “Born again” is used to describe the thrill of a new romantic relationship. The expression is sometimes used in love songs: “With you I’m born again.”
• “Born again” is used to describe reincarnation. For example, there was an episode of The X-Files called “Born Again” which depicts a little girl whom Detective Mulder believes is the reincarnation of a police officer.
• “Born again” is used to express a feeling of revitalization. When a mountain climber reaches the peak, he might shout, “I feel born again!”
What does the Bible say about being born again? One of the best passages on the subject is John 3:1-15.
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.”
John 2 ends with these words: “Now while [Jesus] was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (vv. 23-25). Notice who chapter 3 begins: “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus.” Nicodemus is an example of a man who “believed” in Jesus because of the miracles, but his faith didn’t go far enough.
• He was RELIGIOUS – “a man of the Pharisees” (v. 1). The Pharisees were the religious conservatives of the day. Jesus did call them “hypocrites” on several occasions, but they were highly regarded by Jewish society.
• He was POWERFUL – “a member of the Jewish ruling council” (v. 1). “The Jewish ruling council” was the Sanhedrin (the Jewish “supreme court”). There were only 71 members of the Sanhedrin.
• He was INTELLIGENT – “Israel’s teacher” (v. 10). A more literal translation of the original Greek is “the teacher of Israel” (NASB). Nicodemus may have held an official position as “the teacher of Israel.”
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (v. 3). Even a person like Nicodemus needs to be reborn (v. 3).
To be reborn (born again/born from above/regenerated) means to be made spiritually ALIVE by God.
Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus reveals to us several facts about rebirth?
1. No rebirth = endless DEATH (vv. 3-7).
God warned Adam: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Adam and Eve disobeyed the only law God gave them; and, as a result, they brought death into the world.