“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus 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?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, 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. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’” – John 3:3-8
The leader, the scholar, and the teacher – every part of Nicodemus is perplexed by these teachings. For emphasis, Jesus says “truly” not once but twice. He wanted Nicodemus to know the words that followed were of the utmost of importance: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (v. 5). Nicodemus is stumped. He is a grown man and likely much larger than his mother at this point. He cannot fathom what Jesus means by being born again, being born of water and the Spirit. Jesus challenges and disrupts Nicodemus’ thinking by calling him, and all people, to look beyond the natural to the spiritual realm.
Jesus speaks of two births – the birth of the flesh and the birth of the Spirit. In referring to these births, Jesus once again reveals Nicodemus’ need for teaching, illumination, and transformation. No one is in control of when and how he or she is born. This truth pertains to the physical birth as well as the spiritual birth. Jesus is conveying to Nicodemus that he can achieve many things in his life, but being spiritually reborn is not one of them. Nicodemus will have to surrender his spiritual and intellectual pride and look beyond himself to the only one who can bring about his rebirth.
Jesus also told Nicodemus that the Spirit blows where it wills. Again, with all his power, Nicodemus had no control over the physical wind or the Spirit. In the Hebrew and Greek languages, the same word was used to refer to wind and Spirit. So, what was Nicodemus to do? The same thing all of God’s children are called to do in times of confusion: wait on the Lord, ask questions, wrestle, and ultimately surrender to the fact that his ways are higher than our ways. Nicodemus’ conversation with Jesus would continue. He would ask his questions and wrestle with the teaching of Jesus. He doesn’t pretend to understand, and he does not give up, despite Jesus’ challenges. His tenacity will be rewarded, as seeds will be planted in his life. Humility and authenticity lead to understanding.
How are we manifesting this humility, authenticity, and tenacity in our own walk with the Lord? Far too often, we approach the Lord in the same way that Nicodemus approached Jesus that night. We put ourselves on his level. Sometimes this means cherry-picking the parts of Scripture we obey or live into. Sometimes it means allowing our circumstances and the world around us to define the character and nature of God. Ultimately, it is the erroneous belief that we can fathom the ways of the Lord. The Spirit blows where it will. Salvation is given to those whom God chooses, and understanding comes when we confess that he is God and we are not.
Reflect & Respond:
Are you living according to the flesh or according to the Spirit? How would humility and authenticity lead you to a deeper experience with the Lord? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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