Out of curiosity, mingled with a bit of wonder, a Pharisee by the name Nicodemus, one evening came looking to speak to Jesus and what Jesus told him was nothing like what he expected. Nicodemus was a well-established, authoritative leader of the Jewish people. He was well educated, steeped in theology and most importantly he was of the lineage of Abraham and as a result was the rightful inheritor of the blessings promised to Abraham and his descendants. He upheld the law, the rituals, the rites and the ceremonies of Israel perfectly and yet Jesus said none of that mattered. What Nicodemus needed was to be born again. (John 3:1-15)
In fact the idea of being born again was so important an issue that Jesus told Nicodemus three times about the need for a new beginning. In order for us to understand the importance of what Jesus was saying, we need to remember that Nicodemus represented everything that Judaism stood for spiritually. Nicodemus represented the old ways and he represented a works based religion that relied upon doing things in order to receive the approval of God. He was scrupulous in keeping the laws of Moses and the hundreds of laws that sprung up around those laws, so you couldn’t break Moses laws inadvertently. Jesus represented the grace of God that brought love and forgiveness in place of the heavy yoke of law keeping as a means of salvation.
If we go back to chapter one of John we read these words, “He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not. But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born not of blood not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” V. 11-13
The first thing we notice is that you can’t become a child of God based on your bloodlines nor from the will of the parent, but instead it is by the will of God. If we are to become a child of God it is because He wills it, not because of any heritage or work on our part. Jesus gave us power (the actual Greek should read “the right”) to become a child of God because God the Father willed it. What then is our part in being born again (becoming a child of God)? It is simply to believe in His name. However, it is much more than just saying, “yes I know His name, now I’m born again.” To know Jesus name is to receive Him and all He stands for into our life. It is to appreciate the character of Jesus that led Him to Calvary’s cross to take our place and pay the penalty of sin and rebellion. It is to say “Jesus I accept you into my life and I will live under the sign of your name the rest of my life.”
Nicodemus couldn’t grasp that, as a leader of Judah, he needed Jesus as much as any gentile. It must have seemed all too simple for him. Believe in the name of Jesus, and become a child of God, by the will of God. He was expecting Jesus to give a long lecture on law and obedience or something similar, but instead Jesus told him just believe and be born anew. (3:7) What is amazing about being born again is that it is the work of the Holy Spirit in our heart that convicts us of our need of Christ and leads us to believe in His name. To be born again is to be born of the Spirit (3:8) that leads us to the foot of the cross. (3: 14,15).
Some of you may be saying, as you read this blog that it just can’t be that easy. But, it is that easy. Others of you might be thinking of all the things that you had to study and all the doctrines and catechisms you had to go through to become a Christian, and you wonder what that was all about? Unfortunately, we all too often confuse joining a church with becoming a Christian. Both are important but they are not necessarily mutually interchangeable. Being born again is about accepting Jesus, joining a church is about the corporate life of fellowship with a body of fellow believers.
All I am saying is that it is easy to become a Christian, and I am sorry that we have often made it so complicated. Nicodemus didn’t go away empty handed that night because, when all Jesus friends and disciples ran away at the cross, he was there to help bury Jesus.