“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 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.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, 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, ‘Most assuredly, 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 the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’” (John 3:1-10).

This is the first mention of Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin council. He is mentioned again in John 7:51 and 19:39 – always referred to as “the man who came by night.” John does not explain why Nicodemus came by night, but the fact seems to have some significance. By reading all three passages, it seems clear that Nicodemus was sympathetic with Jesus. His position as a leader in Judaism probably made him reluctant to be seen with Jesus or to publicly acknowledge Him. But Jesus’ miracles had convinced Nicodemus that Jesus was from God.

When Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again, Nicodemus did not understand what Jesus meant. Jesus asked, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?” There were several Old Testament hints that the Messianic kingdom would be spiritual instead of carnal. There were numerous passages that foretold that it would be for Gentiles as well as Jews. See Isa. 2:1-4; 11:6-9, etc. Nicodemus, a teacher in Israel should have noted this.

Likely Nicodemus had assumed that since he was born a Jew, he would automatically be in the kingdom when it came. His fleshly birth had been enough to put him into the fleshly Judean kingdom but to be in the spiritual Messianic kingdom, he, like all others must be born again, from above. The apostle had made reference to this spiritual birth back John 1:12-13. As a fleshly birth involves two factors – father and mother, the spiritual birth requires two elements: water and Spirit. When a person has been taught by what the Holy Spirit has revealed, he must repent of his sins and be baptized in water for remission. Nicodemus was surely aware of the work of John the Baptist who commanded repentance and baptism “for the remission of sins,” Luke 3:3.

Jesus sought to teach Nicodemus that it was not his body that needed to be born again, but his spirit. What is born of the flesh (mother’s womb) is flesh. Nicodemus needed to be born of the Spirit – born of God. “What is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We cannot, of course, see the wind, but we can see the evidence of its power. Neither can we see the human spirit, but we can see the evidence of its power and can by its fruits determine whether it has been born again from above. Note again that this spiritual birth involves two elements – the teaching of the Spirit and the obedience in water baptism. Not by water alone; not by Spirit alone, but by water AND the Spirit.

By - Clarence R. Johnson via Susquennah Sentinel July 31,2005

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