“Jesus answered him (Nicodemus), ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” John 3:3
It is the dead of night. He tiptoes through the cover of the pitch-black sky. He goes quietly, trying to control the nervous beating of his heart so that he won’t be heard or seen. He pushes down the thoughts of what might happen if he is discovered with the Rabbi. He knows the risk…but he just has to find out. Who is this man that they call teacher? What is it about this Jesus that draws him despite the fear of consequences?
In John 3:1-8, we are given an up-close view of a conversation between Jesus and a curious Pharisee named Nicodemus. Nicodemus has seen the wondrous signs and miracles Jesus performed and is perplexed. How can a teacher do such things? God must be with him. Jesus answered his curiosity in a strange way. He told him that the kingdom of God cannot be seen unless a person is born again. Nicodemus is understandably baffled by this notion of being born a second time. How can this be?
This one statement changes everything for Nicodemus. In it, Jesus sums up what it means to be a child of God. To truly understand what Jesus meant we must look at the meaning of the phrase, “born again.” In the original language of the New Testament (Greek), it means, “born from above; from a higher place.” Jesus is telling Nicodemus that in order for him to see and understand who Jesus really is, he must be born from above…he must experience a new birth from on high.
Jesus isn’t referring to a physical birth, but a spiritual one. Being born into a Christian family, knowing the Bible, or even going to church is not the answer. Nicodemus had all of the exterior religious qualifications. But Jesus told him that the ONLY way to God’s kingdom isn’t external at all, not physical, not of the flesh, but of the heart. It is a new spiritual birth through faith.
For a religious Pharisee, this was hard to swallow. And it is still hard to swallow today for many religious people. Church attendance, Bible reading, prayer, giving, witnessing, and even church leadership are not how you enter the kingdom of heaven. As Jesus told Nicodemus over 2,000 years ago, you must be born again…born from above. So, have you been born again? Have you experienced personally the new birth that is by God’s grace, through faith in Christ?
Father, I know that I can do nothing to earn Your grace and forgiveness. It is a gift from You that I lay hold of through faith. This is how I am born into Your kingdom – not by anything I do. Thank You for loving me. Thank You for forgiving me. Thank You for being my Father through new birth. Please help me to surrender all to You each day, because You alone are worthy of my heart’s worship. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.