March 16, 2017 – Thursday
Read: John 3:1 – 6, NIV
Focus: v. 3, NIV
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”
There it is again, that phrase “born again!” It confused Nicodemus and has confused many down through the centuries. Can’t you just see Nicodemus when he hears these words from Jesus? I can see the look of confusion as he tries to process this statement. I’m here. I’m breathing. I can talk and walk. So . . . I must be alive. Therefore, I have already been born. But, Jesus is talking about being “born again.” What can that mean? So he voices his confusion. I obviously can’t go back into my mother’s body and be “born again” so what do I do. I think Jesus gives the answer to his dilemma down in verse 6 and again in verse 10. Nicodemus and others were considered Israel’s elites and often their teachers and in this case a teacher of the Law, i.e. spiritual teacher.
The Law was meant to bring life to the people of God. Life was only possible through a close connection with its Giver, God Himself. We have those today in Christian circles who teach a Prosperity Gospel which is really the same error the Jewish people and their teachers fell into which often caused them to suffer exile and unspeakable horrors. They stopped following the admonitions of the prophets and began attending unto their own health and wealth. The widows, orphans, poor and needy among them were shunned instead of helped. Wealth and prosperity are “given” for a reason and that is not to build you up in any way. Look for God’s purpose in allowing you to have those things.
There are three words or phrases that are important here in verse 3. They are the words “see,” “unless,” and the phrase – “born again.” First, it is important to “see” the kingdom of God. I suppose you could add that phrase as well, “the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God is pretty much the subject of most of Jesus’ teaching. It is at least in the background. The implication here is that it is important for one to “see” the kingdom of God. This is in reference to being part of, a citizen of, God’s eternal kingdom. The Jews, for the most part, thought of that as being something that happened through the simple fact of their birth into a Jewish family. Don’t some who call themselves “Christians” often think the same way? God’s kingdom is not so much a physical reality as it is a spiritual reality. Seeing it takes eyes of faith. If you cannot see it you do not yet have eyes of faith. The word “unless” indicates that seeing the kingdom of God is not automatic but is part of something else that happens. Since it is a spiritual kingdom it must have something to do with spiritual matters. This is when Jesus points to the necessity of being “born again.” His statement brings Nicodemus up short and he appears caught between this world and what Jesus is really taking about. The kingdom of God is a relationship. Just as there is a relationship, a bond if you will, between mother and child, there is supposed to be a relationship between God and man. This spiritual birth makes that relationship possible and it is based on our recognition that there is more to life than this physical life and it is found in an eternal relationship of the spirit with God Himself. Later, Jesus makes it clear that this spiritual relationship is brought about by God Himself through His remarkable Word. That Word being none other than Jesus Christ. We must remember that John starts his Gospel the way he does on purpose and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
“Born again” is not just an esoteric phrase meant to confuse but one meant to draw us into the relationship with the Father that He has always desired. It could only be done through Jesus, and the Law was meant to teach us that fact and as a reminder always that God is present in this world.