John 3:3-8 (NIV): In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 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.”
Jesus responded to Nicodemus’ statement that he knew that Jesus had “come from God” by telling him that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus believed that, because of his education and experience, he knew a lot about God and His ways. But Jesus was pointing out to him that his knowledge was actually very deficient. His was the position of someone on the outside of God’s kingdom looking in, not that of an actual insider.
Jesus’ statement stunned Nicodemus. Jesus had said it so calmly, so matter-of-factly, that Nicodemus interpreted it materially instead of spiritually. How could a person be born a second time. Could he crawl back into his mother’s womb to be born again? He had nothing in his background, nothing in all of his education or experience that could help him make sense of this cryptic statement.
Jesus’ answer is clear: the only way to enter the kingdom of God is by being born again spiritually, what Paul refers to as a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Flesh gives birth to flesh. If the only birth we have had is a physical birth, there is nothing in us that can belong to God’s kingdom, because His kingdom is a kingdom of the Spirit. But the Spirit gives birth to spirit. When we are born again, born of the Spirit, made into a completely new creation, we becomes a spiritually alive being that can inhabit God’s spiritual kingdom, even while we live in this world.
Jesus continued, “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.” This simply means that to those who are not born of the Spirit, those who have only had a physical birth, the things of the Spirit (and the people of the Spirit) are a great mystery. The Spirit says and does things that make no sense to the physical, earthly mind. But merely trying harder to understand will never make the workings of the Sprit, or of the people controlled by the Spirit, comprehensible to the natural mind. Only a new birth, a new creation into the kingdom of God, will make these things intelligible. (The fact that Nicodemus didn’t grasp what Jesus was saying at all was proof that he had not, in fact, been born of the Spirit yet.)
Father, when someone doesn’t seem to grasp spiritual realities, even the simplest ones, we often try to educate them, or encourage them, or finally just tell them to keep going and they’ll get it someday. But we seldom seem to realize that the real problem is most likely not a lack of education or maturity; it may simply be that they have never really been born again. Give us eyes like Jesus had, so that we can see beyond appearances to the spiritual realities behind them, so that we can help people to find the real solution. Amen.