The Gospel of John: a commentary & meditation 
"Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God"

Scripture: John 3:1-8

1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicode'mus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 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 anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicode'mus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 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. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.' 8 The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit."

Meditation: Do you nourish your faith with prayerful reflection of the word of God? When Nicodemus heard about Jesus' miracles and extraordinary teaching, he decided to meet with him privately, away from the crowds and the public spotlight. Nicodemus was no ordinary Jew. He was a religious ruler and member of the Sanhedrin, which was the supreme court of the Jews, and a teacher of Israel (John 3:10). He was a devout Pharisee who sought to perfectly follow the law of Moses, as prescribed in the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and Numbers) and further elaborated in the numerous scribal laws, recorded in the Mishnah and the Talmud. Nicodemus decided to meet with Jesus at night, possibly for two reasons. He may have been cautious and  not ready to publicly associate himself with Jesus since many Pharisees opposed Jesus' teaching and called him a Sabbath breaker. It is also likely that Nicodemus chose the night as the best time for seeking a private and undisturbed conversation with Jesus. The rabbis declared that the best time to study the law was at night after the day's work was completed and the household was at rest. When Nicodemus saw Jesus he addressed him as rabbi (a teacher of God's word and law) and acknowled that Jesus' teaching came from God.

Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus went to the very heart of the Mosaic law - how can one get right with God and enter God's kingdom? Jesus' answer was brief and startling: "Unless one is born anew, he cannot see God." The new birth which Jesus spoke about was not a physical birth but the beginning of a spiritual birth which is something completely new and radical, and from above, namely from God himself.  Jesus said that this rebirth was necessary if one was to enter God's kingdom. Nicodemus thought that to be born again, even spiritually, was impossible. He probably knew too well from experience that anyone who wants to be changed, can't change himself. Jesus explained that this change could only come about through the work and action of the Holy Spirit. This rebirth in the Spirit is very real and experiential, like the wind which can be felt and heard while it is visibly unseen to the naked eye.

What does it mean to be reborn in the Spirit? The  new birth Jesus speaks of is a spiritual birth to a new life and experiential relationship with God as his sons and daughters. This new birth is made possible when one is baptized into Christ and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. God wants to renew all his people in the gift of new life in his Holy Spirit. This new life brings us into God's kingdom and heavenly way of life. What is God's kingdom? God's kingdom is that society of men and women who acknowledge God as their Lord and who live according to his will on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). To be reborn is to enter that society in which God is honored and obeyed, to live as citizens of heaven and members of God's famiy - his sons and daughters, and to enter into possession of that life which comes from God himself, a never-ending life of love, peace, joy, and freedom from sin and the fear of death. Do you know the joy and freedom of new life in Jesus Christ?

"Lord Jesus Christ, you offer us a new birth in the Holy Spirit. Renew in me the gift of faith and new life in your Holy Spirit. Help me to draw near to you and to believe in your life-giving word.  May your kingdom come and may your will be done in my life today, tomorow, and always."

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(c) 2011 Don Schwager