“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again.” The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:4–8).
An older friend of mine speaks freely of being “born again” to those whom she meets – shop assistants, taxi drivers, professional contacts. Part of me cringes as she employs this language, for the term has fallen out of fashion. It’s even become tainted, bringing up images of over-zealous fundamentalist Christians shouting, “Ye must be born again”!
But I shouldn’t be embarrassed, for the source of the words is Jesus. When Nicodemus, a Pharisee who was on the Jewish ruling council, conversed with Jesus, he seems to be taking Jesus literally and not understanding the role of the Spirit in birthing a new person. We might not be able to see the Spirit physically, as perhaps Nicodemus was trying to do, but we will witness its evidence in our lives and in the lives of others – as with the wind blowing through the trees.
John doesn’t tell us here if Nicodemus was born of the Spirit (later we learn that he joined Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus’ body so we can guess that his earlier encounter brought life). Instead John moves on to some of the most famous verses in the Bible, about God so loving the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16)… Our new birth comes from the transforming work of God through Jesus on the cross, that we might escape condemnation and enter the light.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we don’t fully understand how your Spirit works in our lives. Reveal to us your transforming nature, that we might know and believe.