Today’s Reading: John 3:1-21 (additional reading: Psalm 104:1-23 & Proverbs 14:20-21)
We have all heard jokes about people showing up at the pearly gates seeking entrance into Heaven. While many of these jokes bring a smile to our faces, behind most of them is the false assumption that we must do something to get into Heaven. It is shocking to people to hear that they can’t do anything to earn entrance into Heaven. Grace goes beyond human comprehension. By our nature, we want to merit God’s favour. The scandal of grace challenges our normal way of thinking.
In our text today, we come across one of those persons who had a difficult time understanding the truth of free grace salvation. His name was Nicodemus, and as we move through our text, we will discover that Nicodemus was a very religious man who had a hard time realizing the difference between religion and relationship.
To address Jesus with the title “Teacher” reveals Nicodemus’ deep admiration for Jesus. Nicodemus makes Jesus an equal. He even recognizes Jesus’ ministry as blessed by God. “No one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him,” he asserts. He acknowledges the divine blessing of God upon Jesus. Nicodemus falls into the category of the believers described at the end of chapter 2, he is an admirer but not a genuine believer.
Of course, Jesus knows Nick’s heart (2.24), so he cuts straight to the heart of the matter: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again (from above).” Jesus knows why Nicodemus is really there, so he immediately challenges him. “If you want to enter God’s kingdom, you must be born again.”
“Born again” is a common expression today But what Jesus is talking about here is a supernatural event. It is perhaps best translated born “from above.” It is a spiritual new birth, a divine regeneration, a spiritual transformation. To be born again is to be made new by the Spirit of God.
Being born again is not about human efforts (1-2). If anyone “deserved” eternal life, it would appear that Nicodemus had all of the right qualifications. He seems worthy of eternal life. But this story reminds us that salvation is not about human effort or merit. We are reminded that: Position does not save you, popularity does not save you, prestige does not save you and neither piety does not save you. You can come to church, tithe, go to SS, lead a class, be a deacon, read your Bible, pray, witness, and practice spiritual disciplines and yet still be lost. You can do all the things that pious people do and be without Christ. Being born again is about a personal relationship. Being born again is not about religion but about relationship. It is about being born from above. It is about new birth, transformation.