John 3:1-2 (NIV) 1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He 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.”
On verses 1-2: Jesus’ most vocal opponents and critics were the Pharisees, the religious elite of Israel. Yet even among the Pharisees, there were those who secretly believed that Jesus was a teacher sent from God. One of them was Nicodemus, who was not only a Pharisee but also a member of the powerful ruling council of Israel (v1b). Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night (v2), perhaps because he did not want to be seen as associating with Jesus.
What can we learn from this? Don’t stereotype a certain group of people in society as being beyond hope or unreachable. God can work anywhere and in anyone. Just as Nathanael doubted that anything good could come from Nazareth (John 1:46) and was proven wrong, so some of Jesus’ disciples, upon seeing Nicodemus, may have thought, “Can anything good come from the Pharisees?” The fact that Jesus was willing to speak with Nicodemus despite the great criticism and opposition the Pharisees gave Jesus reflects Jesus’ heart of compassion and his willingness to reach all comers and all people no matter what their background.
John 3:3-7 (NIV) 3 In 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!” 5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
On verses 3-7: Jesus, knowing that Nicodemus was honestly searching for answers to spiritual questions, tells Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (v3) What does Jesus mean? In order to be a part of God’s kingdom (“see the kingdom of God” (v3) or “enter the kingdom of God” (v5)), you need to be born again. To be born again means that while we used to be dead spiritually because of our sin, we become spiritually alive through our faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is not talking here about a physical rebirth that we accomplish by our own effort, but a spiritual rebirth made possible by the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Another word for this process of being born again is “regeneration”.
As Titus 3:4-5 says:
Titus 3:4-5 (NLT2) 4 But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
Or as Colossians 2:13 says:
Colossians 2:13 (NIV) 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins…
Praise God! That is why “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
By the way, when Jesus says, “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (v5), what does he mean by “born of water”? Different scholars have posited different interpretations for “water”. Some have interpreted “water” to mean the Word of God (Ephesians 5:26). Some have tried to say that “water” here means baptism, although this interpretation would conflict with other verses in the Bible which say that salvation is through faith alone and that baptism is only a symbol of that salvation. Some have interpreted “water” to refer to our natural birth as humans, which leads to the question, “What about unborn babies? Don’t they go to heaven?” (And I believe they do.) It would seem to me that the best interpretation is that “born of water” is probably referring to the Word of God and that to be “born of water and the Spirit” means that God’s Word and God’s Spirit have worked in your heart so as to create a new spiritual life.
John 3:8 (NIV) 8 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.”
On verse 8: Here Jesus does a bit of a word play because the word in Greek for “spirit” is the same as the word in Greek for “wind”: pneuma. In this verse Jesus is communicating how the work of the Spirit is like the wind. We cannot control it (“the wind blows wherever it pleases”). We cannot fully understand it (“cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going”). And yet we feel the impact of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives (“hear its sound”).
Thank You Holy Spirit for working in us, convicting us of our sin and of our need for a Saviour, and leading us to respond to Jesus and His saving work on the cross. Thank You that because of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I am born again. I used to be dead in my sins, but now I am spiritually alive forever because of Jesus. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!