To Be Born Anew
By Rev. Huang Meiying
Bible Verse Reading: John 3:1-15
These verses recorded the talk of LORD Jesus with Nicodemus about the truth of rebirth, saving grace and the blessing of eternity. The words of LORD Jesus are straightforward and hit the nail on the head. He says that only through rebirth can a human being enter the kingdom of God.
In the first verse, the name "Nicodemus" means "the winner of people". Nicodemus is a rich man. After Jesus' crucifixion, he dedicated a hundred pounds of a mixture of myrrh and aloes for burying the body of Jesus, which showed his wealth. "Pharisees" are a denomination in Jewish community, meaning "the people separated", and they are the most excellent and law-abiding people who understand and explain the truth. They maintain law and thus they were called respectably as "the instructors of Israelites." "Leaders of the Jews" are said to be a Jewish council consisting of seventy members. The council was the Jewish highest institute of law as well as the "office of heresy judge". One of its duties was to search and deal with false prophet and Jesus was the one they hated and persecuted. It is strange that the official of Jewish council came to visit Jesus and talked to Him about his soul.
1. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night.
It's really a miracle of grace that Nicodemus could overcome his prejudice, fine breeding and philosophy and come to see Jesus. Maybe he desired to have an absolutely undisturbed time with Jesus alone, talking about his puzzle; maybe he desired to find light in the dark by all-night talk. As soon as he saw Jesus, he said, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." He didn't know that Jesus was the Son of God, the Savior of sinners, and "Immanuel" of LORD who became flesh. Like Jewish people, he hoped that the Israelites could break away from pain and disaster and enter the kingdom of Messiah promised by God. He didn't know that it was Messiah that he was talking to, nor did he know that one should "be born from above" to enter God's kingdom.
2. "No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above."
The teachings of Jesus very often hit the needs or the guilt in one's heart. For example, a. the woman who fetched the water needed living water, and Jesus said, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. b. The greedy people should work for the food that endures for eternal life: "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life…" (Ref. John 6:27) c. The money-love young man had to sell all he had. Jesus said, "If you wish to be perfect, go, and sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." d. The proud leader must be reborn. Although he was a Jewish leader with a lot of knowledge, good reputation, position and power, he was dirty or not holy in his heart and his life withered like bones of the dead. He should use God's words to be born anew and then he will have the share of God's kingdom.
"To be born anew" is to be born again from Word, from the Holy Spirit, and from God. A person should have the experience of "rebirth" before he asks for "heavenly kingdom". This is what the LORD says to those who attach importance to the appearance rather than to the life. It is also a serious warning to the hypocritical Pharisees who followed the old written code of law instead of Spirit. Meanwhile, the LORD taught his disciple the truth of "rebirth". "Rebirth" holds an important position in our belief. To enter God's kingdom we should repent, believe in and depend on Jesus and to have the LORD'S life.
3. How can anyone be born after having grown old?
Nicodemus did not understand what "rebirth" means, so he asked a question in reply, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Jesus explained further, "No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit." This is the saving grace God promised us. God told us that He so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish by may have eternal life. (Ref. John 3:16) This is God's great love and human faith, and this is the result of combining ourselves with Jesus Christ. The renewal of sinners' life is the demonstration of being born anew.
"Flesh" in verse six means being born from parents, which is old self who suffers from failure and sin and who is not kind-"fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these." (Ref. Galatians 5: 19-21) But the Holy Spirit will go into the heart, make human be born and have the life of Jesus. Thus the fruit of the Spirit will be born-"love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Ref. Galatians 5:19-21) "Rebirth" cannot be seen, but we can see the life of the human after being reborn.
4. The LORD talks about saving grace and Nicodemus was born anew.
Jesus used the parable of wind and compared it to the work of rebirth done by the Holy Spirit. But Nicodemus still asked as he was in the dark, "How can these things be?" "Rebirth" cannot be understood through knowledge because spiritual things are mysterious. Only through faith can we have rebirth. Jesus expounds that "just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." Moses' lifting up the serpent symbolizes the LORD'S being crucified, and those who look up to the Cross, admit their sins and repent and believe in the LORD Jesus will be born anew and enter God's kingdom. When Nicodemus understands the truth of rebirth, he not only gains the life if rebirth but also becomes a LORD-loving and willing-to-sacrifice Christian. The chief priests and Pharisees sent the temple police to catch Jesus, but they tried in vain. The Pharisees scolded the temple police angrily, but Nicodemus boldly defended the LORD. (Ref. John 7:47-51) Though he did not acknowledge Jesus publicly, he accepted the LORD and liked Him in his heart and protected Jesus Christ secretly. Under very difficult and unfavorable condition, he brought myrrh and aloes to bury the LORD. (Ref. 19-39)
Nicodemus seeks for the truth and is close to the life of Jesus. He accepts saving grace and is born anew. What he has done is worth respecting and following.