Born Again – John 3:1-15

This message is a part of our series on the Gospel of John.
Find the rest of the messages in this series here.

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On Wednesday evening we had a work night to get our VBS decorations all painted.

We invited help of ALL skill levels.

I know that we meant that because I got to help and I’m no painter. The paint job that I helped with was painting the roof of the barn black. Meanwhile we had volunteers painting these animals and making the fence slats and painting the tree that’s in the foyer…. They did a great job. I was here.

What we see in the Gospel of John is that Jesus spends time with people of every religious level and category.

In the gospel of John we’ll see Jesus interact with people of both genders, different socio economic levels, different races, sinners and saints, powerful people and disable beggars…

Today’s passage is interesting because it covers Jesus interaction with the chief teacher of the Jews in Jerusalem. He wasn’t the most powerful person in the Pharisees, but he was one of the most public- as a teach of the people he would be a person like myself who taught groups of people about the Bible every weekend.

1There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:

2The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

He calls Jesus a very respectful title or Rabbi and then later refers to Him as a teach sent from God. He could see that Jesus was important and he respected Jesus, but he didn’t see who Jesus truly was… There was something that he wasn’t quite getting.

We know that there was more here than just this greeting, because we get Jesus answering Nicodemus in verse 3.

Nicodemus speaks with appreciation and respect, but he hasn’t begun to appreciate who Jesus is.

You can know a lot of Bible and still be in the dark about Jesus.

He was a member of the Pharisees which means that he had committed himself to an extremely strict observance of the law of Moses and the books of law that they had written to sit on top of the law of Moses.

You can obey a lot of rules and still be in the dark about Jesus.

It’s important for us to remember what we just looked at in John 2. Jesus has run the people selling goods in the temple. Then chapter 2 ends with people believing in Jesus because of the signs He was performing, but that Jesus did not commit himself to them because he knew what was in their hearts…

Then chapter 3 gives us the record of Nicodemus, a leader of the group and a person who fits in the category that had some measure of belief, but not a saving faith, not a complete faith…

Jesus tells Nicodemus that you can not see the kingdom of God unless you are born again.

Now, to Nicodemus the idea of the Kingdom would have been one that he would have spoken of often when he taught the Jews- but it would have been a concept for the future- for the end of the era, for the end of time, when God came to establish His earthly kingdom and reign. It was an end of the world scenario.

However, Jesus speaks in a very present tense context.
He’s talking about seeing the kingdom now.

Whenever Johns speaks of Eternal Life in his gospel, he’s not talking about the length of life, he’s speaking of the depth and breadth of life.

Throughout John’s gospel, “Eternal Life” refers to unending dimensions in length, depth, and breadth of life.

In Virginia there is an Air and Space museum that had an iMax theater and they would show videos from space or the deck of an aircraft carrier and the difference of watching it in 3D on a gigantic screen was pretty incredible in comparison to the pictures you might see in a book or even watching the same video on a TV at home. Of course, back then TVs were nothing like they are today…

Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus of seeing the kingdom of God in 3D here and now.

Heaven is not something for the hereafter but for the here and now.

For this reason John is sure to pass along to us Jesus’ words in

John 10:10 I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

That doesn’t take anything away from when we are with Jesus and His reign on the earth has reached it’s zenith…

Nicodemus taught the people every week how they could obey and sacrifice to see the kingdom some day, Jesus has now come and is preaching the kingdom of God is at hand. It’s here now! Come and see, come and experience it now.

Jesus tells Nicodemus you can only see the kingdom now and then if you are born again. For Nicodemus, this is yet another obstacle to overcome between him and heaven, and he’s perplexed. He doesn’t understand this new regulation. He doesn’t understand how it can be accomplished.

4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: 

Nicodemus can fathom this idea of being born again. For Nicodemus religion was about doing all the right things, keeping all the right rules, how could he accomplish this command of being born again?

Now this concept of being born again is fitting because we have nothing to do with being born the first time. Jesus is wanting Nicodemus to see that this New Life in Him is less about what Nicodemus does and more about what Jesus does…

He makes this more clear in his clarification to Nicodemus.

Now many people read verse 5 as speaking of the two births. But Jesus isn’t referring to the first birth we’ve all experienced here as “born of water.” Rather, Jesus is giving us the full nature of the 2nd birth. The full nature of the 2nd birth is that it’s of water and spirit.

I enjoy an Arnold Palmer- it’s a half lemonade and half sweat tea.

If I was standing next to a picnic table with my drink and Nicole’s drink on it and you asked me, what you drinking there Daniel? If I said an Arnold Palmer, you might say what’s that?
I’d say it’s half Lemonade and half sweat tea.

You wouldn’t think I was referring to my drink as one and Nicole’s drink as the other…

When Nicodemus asks about being born again and Jesus answers to clarify he responds by giving him the elements of being born again.

The second birth consists of being born of water and being born of the Spirit.

Born of water – the idea that would have been familiar to Nicodemus and the readers of John’s gospel would have been the new birth of water baptism which John only offered when people had committed to repentance.

Jesus’ point here is that to belong to the kingdom of God we must repent, but that’s not enough. Your determination to live differently won’t cover it. You’ll keep messing it up. You’ll make the commitment to be different, but then slip into being the same. You’ll commit to following Jesus, but then get sidetracked down some wrong path…

You’re not able to do this, for this reason you must be born again of the Spirit.

Imagine if you went to see a loved one who had just given birth to a baby and you got there and when you held the baby you just went on and on about how good a job the baby had done at being born.

Or if you looked at the father and said, wow man you did a great job. Excellent work.

You better hope that the mother didn’t hear you…

She’d done all the work.

To drive this home, Jesus uses the analogy of the wind.

He says, in verses 7 and 8:

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Jesus says, the work of the Spirit is like the wind.
(The Spirit is often referred to as a wind or being like the wind)

You can hear the wind, you can feel it, we can even be borne along by it, see it’s impact, but we can’t see it and where it comes from and where it’s going we don’t know.

Now, we understand more about the wind today than they did then, but we don’t have any better handle on the Spirit. The Spirit moves and we can see it’s impact. We can watch it make a difference in lives, we can see it bring people along…

Ministry is often like being aboard an old tall ship.

There are times that I want things to get moving, but I’ve got to wait on the work of the Spirit.

When the Spirit works I know he’ll bring about the changes that need to happen in your life, and sometimes he works through sermons and counsel and accountability…

I often want to be the Spirit in people’s lives, I might as well jump off the boat in the middle of the sea and push…

When we see God working, that’s like the sails of the old ship pulling tight and full because the force of the wind is behind them and it pushes the ship along.

Nicodemus responds with  How can these things be?

9Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

10Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.

12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

Jesus says, you’re the teacher of Israel and you don’t know this?

He then mentions that he is form heaven, but he can’t tell Nicodemus of heavenly things because he doesn’t believe him on the earthly things…

In other words, Jesus could tell Nicodemus of things out of this world, but they couldn’t get to that because they had to keep going over this starting point…

We can’t see the kingdom of God until we’ve been born again…

There is so much depth, breadth, and length that Jesus wishes to teach us, but we must first know the gospel.

How can these things be?

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Jesus answers Nicodemus with a story he’s familiar with.

The serpents in the desert.

The serpent on a pole.
Looking to Jesus and living.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:

15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Moses lifted up a serpent in the desert to heal the Hebrews snakebites.

Jesus would be lifted up on the cross to crush the serpent from the garden and heal our souls.

How can these things be?

How can we be born again of the Spirit? Because Christ was born in the flesh to die so that believing in Him we might live.