Nicodemus was shocked!
“Surely you don’t mean I’m supposed to return to the womb?”
The unconventional teacher had answered the question that Nicodemus had not asked, had not thought that he needed to ask.
Nicodemus was a Jewish ruler, a leader in the temple. He had seen Jesus knocking over tables and driving animals out of the temple courts. He had heard the promise to destroy “this temple” and raise it in 3 days. There were murmurings among the Pharisees about this peculiar threat to the temple system. Some even suggested violence.
Nicodemus was a mixture of curiosity and doubt. He wanted to believe but didn’t know what to believe. He was worried that believing would change EVERYTHING. He took his questions to Jesus. You should too.
We pick up the story in the third chapter of the gospel as recorded by John. Nicodemus came to Jesus under cover of darkness, anonymity. That’s ok, at least he came. Nicodemus addressed Jesus respectfully and stated that he thought Jesus was a really good teacher, sent from God.
There was a pause.
“Unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
I think Nicodemus was shocked because he was basically a professional at doing good. He just about lived in the temple, memorized all the rules, checked every box. He did not fully understand this concept of a Kingdom of Heaven, but he didn’t come to Jesus to gain entrance – he thought he was already in. Do we come to Jesus for self-improvement? For fine-tuning?
So what about being born again?
Before you are born you don’t exist. Prior to being born spiritually, you are not in the kingdom of heaven. That can sound offensive or exclusive. Truth is exclusive.
In this birth analogy you are a helpless passenger, taking no credit. Nicodemus found it impossible to believe that all of the good deeds he had done, the countless sacrifices, added up to less than the value of a mosquito smeared on a windshield.
Don’t we gain entry to the Kingdom of Heaven by doing what is right?
So I’m saved through faith in Jesus Christ and nothing else?
But what about doing the right thing? What if I’m a profane, hateful, racist, violent man, yet claim to have faith in Christ Jesus?
Let me give you a couple answers. First, Paul clears this up for us in the first ten verses of Ephesians chapter 2. Second, Jesus addressed this with Nicodemus in the next few verses of John chapter 3. Stay tuned, I’ll try to write a post about it next week.