John 3:3. Jesus answered [Nicodemus], “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3 records for us one of the greatest dialogues in human history. God and man face to face talking. Jesus and Nicodemus in secret conversation.
Nicodemus: 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.
Nicodemus wants to talk about God’s glory in signs and wonders. But Jesus wants to talk about God’s salvation. God’s kingdom. God’s life.
Jesus: Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
The phrase “born again” is the Greek word anothen, which means “from above,” or from God or from Heaven. Now to be fair, anothen can also be translated as “born again.” So Nicodemus isn’t wrong in hearing it this way. And it explains why he starts talking about going back inside his mother’s womb (awkward).
But that’s not what Jesus is talking about. He’s talking about being born of God. He’s talking about a new birth from Heaven.
Nicodemus’ knowledge, status, religious deeds, none of this can save him. He needs a heavenly birth. A new divine life force. A new spirit and a new heart. And to prove that he isn’t just making this up, Jesus drills down deep into the scriptures with Nicodemus.
Jesus: 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.
The water and the Spirit are all over the scriptures – Creation, the Exodus, priestly cleansing, and of course, Ezekiel’s vision of living water. Nicodemus should know this stuff. Jesus has taken Nicodemus deep into God’s promise through the prophet Ezekiel of a new covenant, a new heart, and a new spirit making us the new creation.
Ezekiel 36:26. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.
Nicodemus wanted to have a conversation about Jesus’ political potential. But Jesus wanted to have a conversation about THE power of the new birth. The birth from above. The birth through the waters of the Spirit.
Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus is truly remarkable. But the most amazing part is still to come. Nicodemus is still confused, asking, How can these things be? (3:9). But Jesus doesn’t say “keep studying, Nic. You’ll get it eventually.” No. He says look at ME.
I am the birth from above.
I am the cleansing water of the Spirit.
I am the promised new creation.
Jesus was literally born from above (not born again). In his incarnation, Jesus was born physically of the Spirit, becoming flesh, so that we might be born spiritually from above, becoming the new creation in Christ.
“To live is Christ” means that we have been much more than “born again.” We have been born from above. God’s life is our life. Christ’s eternal love and holiness is ours in him. God’s Spirit is in us as the person of Jesus Christ. This is the glory that all of scripture and every promise of God has brought us to see- Christ on a cross, lifted up for us, so that his eternal life may be ours in him.
Have you been born from above?
You in Christ
To be in Christ is to be born from God, his child. How does this give you hope and peace today?
Christ in you
How does being born from above make your life different?
Playlist: Born Again.
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