Jesus lived his life dependent upon the life of the Father- that is, the Father’s divine, eternal life or zoe. And this divine life can only overtake a human life (including Jesus’) by the Spirit (ruach) of God.
Over the next couple days let’s take a look at a couple conversations Jesus had with people about life. The first one is found in John 3 with a religious leader and teacher, a Pharisee, named Nicodemus. If you’ve never read this story, go ahead and read John 3 now.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that his life is not what he thinks it is. He is a rich, powerful, educated man. But according to Jesus, he is also spiritually dead and dying. To use a word from John 3:16, he is “perishing.”
John 3:2-3. 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.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Jesus flat out ignores Nicodemus’ opening statement, and gets to the heart of Nicodemus’ real problem. He must be born again. “Born again” literally means to be born from above. It cannot mean to find religion, because Nicodemus already has religion and he is still not in the Kingdom of God.
John 3:5. Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Not only does Nicodemus need a new life, he needs it from a new source. He must be born of “water and the Spirit.” This is most likely a way of saying the same thing twice. Jesus is quoting the prophets, who often combined the water and the Spirit (or wind/ ruach) when talking about God’s restoration of his people. For example:
Ezekiel 36:25-27. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Nicodemus is stumped. He is a teacher of Israel, an expert in the Old Testament, but he missed what God had said so many years earlier.
John 3:14-15. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life [zoe].
New life is needed by the Spirit. We are all dying like the Hebrews that got bit by snakes in the wilderness (read about it in Numbers 21:6-9). Nicodemus’ religion, status, power, money, and morality cannot save him. What does he need?
Here’s where it gets good. Do you see what Jesus does? In verse 5, he has told us that what we need is rebirth by the Spirit. Then in verse 15, he says that we need to believe in the Son. He has made the Spirit and the Son one. The rebirth of the Spirit is by faith in the Son. And what is the result? Eternal zoe. Christ’s own life.
And don’t miss the way to this eternal life in verse 14. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Jesus will be lifted up on the cross, carrying sin and death- the death of the serpent. On the cross, Christ will be exalted to glory, the glory of the sacrificial life. The glory of the self giving God. The glory of bearing the image of our eternally loving and merciful Father. Because he was lifted up on the cross, we can receive his life from outside of us, into our lives by the Spirit, so that now “to live is Christ.”