Summary: In life, it is not uncommon to be left out. As Jesus teaches Nicodemus, he gives us three things that we are not left out from.
Johnny had a hard life growing up. Things were never easy for him, and it started at his birth. He was unfortunately born early with some tumors on his brain and neck that needed to be operated on. While the surgeries were successful, they took a heavy toll on his body. The surgeries damaged his fine motor skills and effected his cognitive abilities. Even walking was not easy for this poor boy. As a result, it was hard for him to make friends and to fit-in. It was common for him to be left out at recess, not invited to birthday parties, and to be picked on as well. Johnny knew what it was like to be left out. He knew what it was like to feel alone, forgotten, and unloved by others. Those are never easy things to feel, or to experience. As we look at Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, we see a message that is for all people. You aren’t left out of it, and neither is Johnny. Jesus includes us all in the points that He makes.
John starts by introducing us to Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, and he is an important one at that. He is a ruler of the Jews, and He sees and views Jesus as a special teacher. Nicodemus tells Jesus that Jesus must have come from God because no one could do the signs and miracles that He is doing unless God was with Him. Perhaps Nicodemus asks Jesus about the Kingdom of God based on Jesus’ response. Nevertheless, Jesus tells him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anothen he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Jesus says that if you wanted to be saved, you have to be born anothen. The Greek word anothen can mean two things. It can mean born again, and it can also mean born from above. The word means both. And Nicodemus seems to understand it as meaning born again, for he tells Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” He doesn’t seem to understand what Jesus is saying here. Nicodemus thinks that a literal, physical rebirth is necessary to see and enter into God’s Kingdom. He thinks it is necessary to be saved. However, he is not sure of how one can be born again when one becomes old. So Jesus clarifies what He means. He teaches us about human beings, and our true origin. He tells us about being born from above.
Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” Jesus doesn’t leave anyone out here. When He says, “You must be born again,” the you is plural! It is not singular like it was on Wednesday. Not just Nicodemus, the disciples, Johnny or the Gentiles need to be born from above. Everyone needs to be born from above if they are to enter God’s kingdom. Why is that? Flesh gives birth to flesh.
Just like how an apple tree will only produce apples and not oranges, so will sinful flesh only give birth to sinful flesh. When sinful human beings give birth, they give birth to those who are likewise sinful, fallen, corrupted, dead, blind, alienated, and hostile to God. We cannot go to Him or please Him. We all begin in the same boat. We all need to be completely changed and born from above. We all need to be born from water and the Spirit. No one is left out!
Jesus points us to our baptism with His Words. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is where we are born of water and the Spirit. Baptism gives us new birth, and it renews us. It gives us new life, forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit. It makes us a new man and new creation. Our mind, heart, and will are directed toward God and what pleases Him. It gives us entrance into His kingdom through faith.
And this is all God’s work. Being birthed is a passive experience. It was true for your physical birth and conception, and it is the same for your spiritual one. Being born from above is something that we cannot do, nor do we have any part in. No one can will themselves into heaven. This rebirth is God’s work and gift. Jesus tells Nicodemus that He is not making this up. The Old Testament Scriptures bear witness to these truths. We all need to be born from above. We are all included in this.