Jesus Says We Must Be “Born Again,” But What Does That Mean?
Jesus says we must be “born again,” but what does that mean? Steph takes a look at Nicodemus and his quest for the truth.
You Must Be Born Again
In John 14:15(ESV), Jesus says,
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
In this series of devotionals, we will examine why we should heed these words and how we can do so. We will be working our way through the gospel of John, my personal favourite.
In John 3, the first 10 verses read as follows:
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ 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?’ Jesus answered, ‘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.” 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.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?’”
This passage proceeds what is likely the most often quoted verse in the Scriptures, John 3:16(ESV):
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.“
Although many religious leaders of Jesus’s time had no interest in heeding the Saviour’s teachings, at least one felt differently. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. Despite the risk, this man wanted to learn the truth.
As we read, he declared to Jesus,
“We know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
This indicates that his colleagues knew Jesus was not a fraud. And yet, they were unwilling to submit to His authority and pledge allegiance to Him. Even though Nicodemus wanted to learn more, his mind turned immediately to physical birth when the Lord told him he must be born again. How could one return to his mother’s womb?
As the Lord continued to teach this leader, He asked,
“Are you a teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?”
Unlike the other spiritual leaders, Nicodemus didn’t resent Jesus and the challenges He presented. Nicodemus sought spiritual understanding and insight. We know that he acknowledged Jesus as a teacher because he addressed the Lord with the honoured title “rabbi.”
There are many things we can learn from this leader of Israel. He humbled himself and went to Jesus. He acknowledged who Jesus was; he didn’t try to find an alternative explanation or ignore the truth. He asked questions when he didn’t understand what Jesus said. He didn’t resent the Saviour’s challenge to him but asked more questions. And after Jesus died on the cross, Nicodemus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea and requested that they be given permission to bury Him. Nicodemus’s faith wasn’t fleeting; he was committed to Jesus for the long haul.
We must not become arrogant or proud, even if the Lord raises us up to a position of spiritual leadership. Even though we will not understand all spiritual truth this side of eternity, we must live up to what God has revealed to us and daily seek deeper understanding. We must walk in humility and persevere in faith.
And we must ever be thankful that Nicodemus’s questions led to the revelation that is so familiar to us. May we never quote John 3:16 casually, without taking time to consider the rich truth contained in these 24 words. And as we gain more and more understanding, may we eagerly share it with those whose lives intersect our own.
And should times get difficult, may we refuse to give up hope. May our faith remain steady even when all looks lost.
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Images courtesy of:
Baby – Ranier_Maiores
Jesus and Nicodemus – Henry Ossawa Tanner
Truth – OpenClipart-Vectors
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