It was the Passover and Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night. In the quiet of that holiday season, surely there were spiritual sensitivities in the heart of Nicodemus. It’s possible that Nicodemus might wonder if Israel would again (As they did when God rescued the people from the slavery and oppression of the Pharaohs. As God did when He delivered them from His judgement of the firstborn in the land.) see the power of God on display to deliver them from their enemies. How long would they have to wait this time? What would be required to again see God’s power on display?
Jesus rocked Nicodemus’s view of the world when He told him you “must be born again” to see and enter the Kingdom of God. To Nicodemus this was not how the world worked when it came to being on the inside track for God. Faithful obedience to the Law of God is what made it possible to be on God’s side. Nicodemus must have found Jesus’ declaration disconcerting.
Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.t 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
In order to help Nicodemus, a teacher of the Law understand, Jesus makes a statement, makes an allusion, and gives an illustration.
Statement: You must be born again.
Allusion: Jesus reaches back to God’s message to Ezekiel (See Ezekiel 37 and the Valley of Dry Bones.) and the promise of God’s activity in raising up a people for Himself. Flesh gives rise to flesh. The Spirit gives rise to flesh. God will put his Spirit within them and He will cleanse them. He will be among them.
Illustration: The wind. Jesus says the wind blows where it will, we don’t see where it comes from, but we do see the effects. So it is with people born of the Spirit. We cannot see the internal work of the Spirit of God, nor are we in control of the Spirit; we cannot even limit the Spirit of God to borders and classes of people.
This sets up the incredible declaration and mind-expanding statement from Jesus about what God is up to in sending the Son of Man, “down” from heaven with all the wisdom and knowledge of being God: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
God has come down into the realm of humanity in order to love us all.
Jesus disturbs the self-situated moorings of religion and any form of self-righteousness. However, Jesus, the rabbi, is very kind to Nicodemus. Teachers teach what they know. Jesus has pointed out that being born again is an “earthly matter” (John 3:12) and in this matter, Jesus gently points out that Nicodemus doesn’t know about it. Then he goes on to show that there is urgency in Nicodemus’ need for the healing virtue, salvation, and life available in Jesus the Messiah. Judgement is a condition all people are in just as Israel was when the poisonous snakes entered their camp in Numbers 25. Healing and a prolonged life was available for all who were bitten if they looked on the bronze snake formed and lifted up on a stake by Moses. But soon (relative to the night of this conversation with Nicodemus) the Son of Man, the form of God in Christ Jesus, would be lifted up (exalted) on an execution stake (the cross) for the healing of the nations. And all who by the grace of God look upon Him in faith shall have eternal life–life now and for eternity in the Kingdom of God.