When we imagine a reset in life, we can come up with lots of excuses. Here’s the story of an interaction between one man and Jesus:
Now 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 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 3:1-8 ESV)
Nicodemus is a Pharisee, a religious law expert. He lives by the book, is religious authority and example to others. So why does he come speak to Jesus like this? One opinion is that he has sinister motives: he’s sucking up to someone famous by saying nice things. Or worse, he is trying to draw Jesus into saying something wrong or illegal.
But another, more likely opinion notes that he comes to visit Jesus by night. He’s truly intrigued, and is scared of the consequence if anyone realizes. It seems like that’s how Jesus treats him, like anyone else who comes to him asking questions.
Jesus makes it clear that following his teachings won’t just be adding a new religious layer on top of Nicodemus already impressive religious portfolio. It means a complete reset of his life, which is costly considering all he’s already invested.
Jesus uses the imagery of the ultimate reset – being reborn, when he says, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
This is where we get the terminology of being “born again”. Maybe you react to this word, or don’t like it, because it conjures up images of pushy evangelists. But it’s great image, and Jesus’ image, so we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss it. He’s saying that following him means a new life, 100%.
Nicodemus, though, misses the point. For one reason or another, he takes it quite literally. He’s probably not that naïve to think Jesus means he needs to climb back in the womb – he’s probably just shocked and confused so he argues with it, and tries to argue with the imagery rather than the concept.
Question: What does “born again” evoke for you? Do you embrace it, or challenge it?
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