“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)
What does it mean to be born again! To a person seeking to know God in the natural, these words will make no sense. That was the case with Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, that is, he was part of the Jewish ruling council. Nicodemus decided to secretly visit Jesus one night. It is obvious that he wanted to know this man who was performing signs and wonders. It was also obvious that he did want anyone to know because the ruling council was no friend of Jesus. In fact, they ultimately persuaded Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, to crucify Jesus.
In their meeting, Jesus told Nicodemus that a person must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:3) Nicodemus pursued the topic further. Nicodemus asked, “How can someone be born when they are old?” . . . Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4) More than likely Nicodemus, a learned man, knew that being born again did not mean a second natural birth. Obviously, he sought out Jesus to find out more about this born-again experience.
Jesus noted incredulously, that Nicodemus was a teacher in Israel and ‘’yet you do not understand these things’’? (John 3:10) So, Jesus began to explain the born again experience by noting that a person could not go back into his/her mother’s womb and be naturally born again, besides, that first natural birth was of corruptible seed. 1Peter 1:23 clearly states that “Being born again (is) not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever.” The natural seed of human beings is contaminated by the Adamic sin nature which has been passed down since the Fall and which brought sin, sickness and death into the world. Successive generations have inherited that “bad blood.” Human beings need a blood transfusion to connect with God gain; they need to be saved from sin and death.
Only uncontaminated blood from a sinless sacrifice can bring salvation. And that sinless sacrifice is Jesus Christ, the Son of God! Only the blood of Jesus can redeem humans from sin and death and provide eternal life. The sacrifice of sinless animals in the Old Testament could only bring cleansing for past sins each year and the ritual had to be repeated over and over again. Animal sacrifices could not bring lasting atonement for sin.
After the Fall (Genesis 3), the human race needed an eternal sacrifice to save them from sin, and death, so Jesus, the second in the Godhead, came to the earth at the appointed time to offer himself as the sacrificial lamb to redeem those that he had created. (John 1:2)
“He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but to the sins of the world,” (1John 2:2)
“ . . . to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children botanical not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 12:13)
So Jesus had come to earth and he was now conversing with Nicodemus. He tells Nicodemus in John 3 that his first birth was natural and fleshly and that it is the Spirit that is at work in the new birth. The Spirit of God brings life and renewal to a person’s spirit. This renewal is like cleansing water—the washing of regeneration. Now John does not say what happened at the end of that conversation with Nicodemus.
That born again experience, born from above, that Jesus discusses with Nicodemus is part of the salvation experience and is fundamental to every child of God who believes in Jesus Christ. Jesus atoned for the sins of humankind by his death and resurrection. Those who believe in him must then repent of their sins, ask for forgiveness and they shall be saved. Ephesians 2 states that we were all once:
“. . . dead in trespasses and sins . . . following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived . .. .”
But with the acceptance of Jesus Christ, we become born anew. The process of salvation and new birth then produces a regeneration and washing of a person’s spirit by the Holy Spirit. (John 3:5)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
By the way, John provides two more glimpses of Nicodemus in his gospel. The next appearance of Nicodemus occurs when the Pharisees and priests send guards to arrest Jesus but the guards found themselves unable to do it. The Pharisees scold the guards for not arresting Jesus. Nicodemus speaks up defending Jesus for being condemned without due process. He asks, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does? (John 7:50-51) However, the ruling council ignores Nicodemus and continues their quest to arrest Jesus.
Nicodemus’ last appearance was in the nineteenth chapter of John right after the crucifixion of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate, the governor of Judea, and asks for the body of Jesus so that he could bury him. Joseph was a member of the ruling council, like Nicodemus. He was also a secret disciple. Joseph was accompanied by Nicodemus who brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes for Jesus’ burial. They wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices and linen and took him to a new tomb in the garden where he had been crucified. (John 19:38-42) According to Matthew 27:60, the new tomb belonged to Joseph. What’s fascinating here is that Nicodemus was with Joseph of Arimathea and the two men buried the body of Jesus! Nicodemus had become a disciple, albeit, a secret disciple of Jesus! That’s awesome!