Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said,Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.Jesus replied,Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.John 3:1-3
Notice how Jesus cuts right across Nicodemus' inquiry with a sharp and penetrating sentence that must have gone like a sword thrust right into his heart. Observe what Jesus is saying in this startling word to Nicodemus. A new birth is absolutely essential to enter the kingdom. John uses a very interesting word here that is translated
again. It is the Greek word, anothen, which means
to do something a second time. It often points to a radical new beginning which comes from above. It signifies God must do this. It is speaking of something radical, a new beginning. It is a second birth, but it comes from above. It is God that does it, not man; and it results in a new creation, a new beginning.
This idea appears many times in the New Testament. Paul speaks of
babes in Christ, (1 Corinthians 3:1). Peter says,
as newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow, (1 Peter 2:2). Again Peter says we are
born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, (1 Peter 1:23). And he speaks of being
born to a living hope, (1 Peter 1:3). Paul speaks not only of being new creatures in Christ but of a new creation; of passing from death unto life, of a new, radical start. Jesus makes clear that this is the only way to enter the kingdom of God. If you do not come this way you cannot enter. There is no way you can even see the kingdom of God without this.
To be in
the kingdom of God, of course, is to belong to God; it is to be a part of his rule, his reign, his domain. Paul speaks of being transferred from
the kingdom of darkness, ruled by the god of this world, into the kingdom of the Son of his love, (Colossians 1:13). Thus, Jesus was referring to a transfer of citizenship, a radical departure from what we once were.
Jesus sensed in Nicodemus a deep hunger, an emptiness. Here was a man who was doing his level best to obey what he thought God wanted, yet he had an empty and unsatisfied heart that led him to seek out Jesus by night, at the risk of the displeasure of his peers, to talk with him about the kingdom of God. Sensing this our Lord immediately puts him on the right track, saying to him, in effect,
You are wasting your time if you think you can enter the kingdom of God the way you are. You cannot do it. You must be born again.
When John Wesley preached all through England, Wales and Scotland, he continually told people that they must be born again. Someone once asked Wesley why he preached so often that people must be born again. Wesley's answer was simply that it's because they must be born again! After all, that is what Jesus is saying.
Father, thank you for the miracle of new birth which comes only from above. It is only through your great power and love that such a thing could happen to me.
Spiritual re-birth is generated by God who is Love. How are we responding to such infinitely costly Love?