Lord, You fill all that needs to be filled, You restore all that has fallen apart. I bless Your name.
Read JOHN 3:1–21
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 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.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are 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.’ 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.”
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true” (1 John 5:20). Nicodemus, although a religious man, came to Jesus out of an unsatisfied hunger for God.
A new beginning. A new birth into God’s family, as his children. John has clarified that people do not naturally know God or have access to the world above. Only Jesus can provide this access because he comes from God. A person can only enter God’s world through a radical transition—a new birth—but they cannot make this happen. It must be an
act of God.
When Jesus introduces the subject of new birth, the learned Nicodemus surprisingly struggles to understand. Though he makes a good start—he infers from the miracles that Jesus is God-sent—Nicodemus cannot grasp what Jesus is saying. Admittedly, being “born of water and the Spirit” (5) sounds mysterious, but someone with the equivalent of a PhD in theology should have made the connection to the spiritual renewal God had promised to his people (Ezek. 36:25–27). At least, that is what Jesus expected, going by his rebuke in verse 10. Despite a promising start, Nicodemus fades out of this conversation (he does not speak beyond verse 9 and disappears into the darkness from which he came—to reappear more positively in chapters 7 and 19).
The story of Nicodemus draws together various issues. The believer’s birth of God in 1:13 is now explained as a birth of water and Spirit, which, against the backdrop of Ezekiel 36, refers to people’s spiritual cleansing and renewal. Like every person, Nicodemus belongs to the world, so he can only think “from below.” This failure to understand hinders the new beginning God has in store for people. Only when the Light shines in our personal darkness and enlightens us can we grasp this new reality (John 1:5,9). This thinking “from above” starts with looking in faith at the crucified one (15) who has taken away the sin of the world.
If you already belong to God’s world, reflect on how your thinking “from above” has progressed and aided you in understanding God and his purposes better.
Father God, Light of the World, shine Your probing Spirit into my dark places, so I can turn from them to Your cleansing and forgiveness.