“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:3–5, NASB95)
Today, we leave the book of Matthew to capture one of Jesus’ references to the kingdom of heaven in the Gospel of John. Jesus was in the middle of a conversation with Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin (the supreme court of religious rule in Israel). To the Jewish people he would have been a spiritual leader. There was no question of his theological knowledge and strict obedience to religious law. He had to be absolutely shocked when Jesus told him that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus had to know that Jesus was talking about him and was disqualifying him from the kingdom of God because he was not born again. But how could this be? How could someone as religious as Nicodemus not be heaven bound? If you would have asked him that day (prior to talking to Jesus), he would have asserted with certainty that he was going to heaven.
What this means is that not everyone who thinks he is going to heaven is. Jesus stated that there is a qualification (to be born again) for everyone to enter into God’s kingdom. Jesus added in verse 5 that this qualification (being born again) takes place when one is given new birth by the Holy Spirit. Being born again is not a hoop that must be jumped through but a gift that is given by God himself. Just as with the dry bones in Ezekiel 37, new life is worked in us as the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God to breathe into us spiritual life.
The path to God’s kingdom is paved by God himself. He provides the Word. He provides the power. He provides the offer. The key is that we must be willing to receive Him (Jesus) as He is and not as we have determined Him to be. No wonder Jesus says of Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). This is the Jesus that Nicodemus, and all of us, need to come to know. Nicodemus was born again on Good Friday when he witnessed Jesus die on the cross. What about you? What’s your story?