Good Thursday morning! Hope you are up early today, because here comes the devotional!
Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God." John 3:3
Nicodemus brilliant first question... does not get asked. Jesus gives him an answer before Nicodemus even gets a question spoken! Just after listening to what is more than the usual polite greeting, Jesus doesn't give a polite response or even an acknowledgement. Instead, Jesus gets right to the truth, and right into the matters of importance. "I tell you the truth..." Right then we know through reading, and Nicodemus knew because he was there, that Jesus is saying something both timeless and that we need to know. We need to know the truth, and Jesus is going to spell it out for Nicodemus and everyone who reads his words. "...unless you are born again..." What? Beyond the obvious physical limitations, how does this work? Here is an example of believing in Jesus or not believing in Jesus. If you choose to not believe, then you are going to stumble over this small phrase. An intellectual will know that a person cannot be born again. A learned person will scoff at such nonsense. A person obviously can't be reborn from his mother! However, Jesus spoke only the truth and that is what he said, we must be born again. What is the problem with that? If we are not born again, Jesus tells Nicodemus that we cannot see Heaven, or the Kingdom of God.
Nicodemus didn't even ask the question, but received what is perhaps the most stunning answer in all of history. Even a person who refuses to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that the Bible is the very Word of God, will have trouble with this statement made by Jesus. That he began with, "I tell you the truth..." leaves us no wiggle room in our choosing. As C.S. Lewis noticed many years ago, you must believe in Jesus as the Truth, call him a liar, or write him off as crazy. We can see that in that choice there are two negative possibilities. This shows that the wrong choice is always much easier than the right one. Once you decide to believe in Jesus, and this verse is certainly the place to start making that stand, Jesus tells you what must happen for your salvation. You and I must be born again to see the Kingdom of God! How can this happen? We cannot tell from this one verse.
Although every verse is important in the Bible and all scripture has value for our Christian education, one verse alone does not usually hold the answer we seek. However, there is one verse, another statement by Jesus, that does hold the answer to this question of being born again. For now, we will just have to wait, and wonder, with Nicodemus as he tries to figure out the answer to a question he never got the chance to ask. This shows us something else of Jesus - his time was valuable during his earthly ministry. Jesus does not seem to be one to dwell on pleasant flattery or even genuine compliments, whichever Nicodemus meant in this case. Without waiting for Nicodemus to start asking questions of him, Jesus states the heart of the matter. "Nicodemus, if you want to go to Heaven, you must be born again." to add a little paraphrasing of my own there. That sounds like starting over in life. How in the world can we do that? Is Jesus leaving Nicodemus, and us, with no hope at all? Certainly there have been times that you or I may have looked at our lives and thought that starting over would be a good beginning, but of course we know that isn't possible. However, that seems to be just what Jesus has told Nicodemus is of critical importance. What is the answer to this conundrum? Nicodemus isn't slow or stupid; tomorrow we will see the very questions that any of us would have in the same situation.
Have a wonderful new day, even at this early hour, in Christ Jesus!