When Christ taught publicly and could be heard daily, there was no need to approach Him at night in private. However, Nicodemus, a Pharisee member of the Sanhedrin, came to Jesus to examine Him “by night” without his peers knowing that he was making this contact. Christ knew the heart of Nicodemus, and put the matter squarely to him:
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3: 3.)
The assertion made here is:
“Verily, verily”–meaning that Christ was capable of announcing truth.
“I say unto thee”–meaning that Christ was capable of making commandments, establishing conditions, announcing the requirements for salvation. Indeed, Christ was putting Himself into the position of Moses, becoming a lawgiver.
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” –meaning that if Nicodemus intended to see heaven, Christ was declaring the condition for entry. Becoming a new creature was essential. Without newness, new birth, a new approach to life, all things which Nicodemus followed would lead away from the kingdom of heaven.
Nicodemus responded: “How can a man be born again when he is old? Can he enter the second time into the mother’s womb, and be born? ” (John 3: 4.)
This isn’t a rhetorical or meaningless question, nor does it announce ignorance. Nicodemus is testing Christ. If this is a new lawgiver, and possessed the capacity to announce conditions for entry into heaven, then He needs to explain His meaning. This is a Pharisee Rabbi, asking a young, new Rabbi to set the matter plainly.
Christ responded: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3: 5-8.)
Now it is put plainly:
Born as a new man, by water (baptism) and Spirit (receive Holy Ghost) is required to “enter into the kingdom of God.” Without receiving these new ordinances from the new officiators (John the Baptist and Christ), the old ordinances will no longer be accepted. This is a call to Nicodemus to receive the new prophets then preaching. Without accepting these new prophets, he could not enter into God’s kingdom.
Flesh is just flesh. What is required to be able to go where God is will require every person to receive a new Spirit, new life, and become connected with heaven.
Heaven is unruly, unpredictable and blows without predictability. The Spirit is unruly, requiring things which men do not anticipate. It takes you places you have not been before. You cannot just sit within the councils of the Sanhedrin and reason with men’s understanding. You must become inspired by a higher source. You must accept that new direction from above, or you will never enter into God’s kingdom.
Brilliant. Christ taught the teacher. Now the matter is put to him: Will he receive a new life, and leave the old one? Will he become born again.
How hard it must have been for a man in Nicodemus’ position to approach Christ. The fact he came at night testifies to the discomfort of his circumstances. Yet Christ, in patience, told him how to receive eternal life.
What a revealing encounter. We are the richer in our understanding for it having occurred.