1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]”
4 “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!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8 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.”[d]
What does it mean to see the kingdom of God? Jesus indicates that, like the wind, it is all around us but difficult to see apart from the Spirit of God. The process by which the Spirit teaches us to see, Jesus describes as being born again. In order to truly understand the second birth it is important to know the characteristics of the first birth.
Nicodemus was born of water the first time. He had grown up in this community of Israel to become a teacher of the Law, and a member of the Jewish ruling council. He had status, power, and wealth in his community. He had a lifetime of building his identity in these things. They provided him with comfort and security. Perhaps this is something Nicodemus already understood to some degree. The fact he came to Jesus at night may indicate that he wanted to minimize the risk meeting with Jesus might pose to his position in the community.
Jesus tells him that if he wants to see the kingdom of God he must be born again. What would this mean for Nicodemus? It means starting over to build a new identity in Jesus. He would have to take a path of vulnerability, humility, and growth in order to see God's Kingdom. Entering God's kingdom involves risk and surrender. Only those willing to give up the identity they once held dear, becoming once again as a little child, can enter into the process of being born of the Spirit.
What do you consider to be the most cherished aspects of your identity?
Father, make us willing to become once again as babes to follow you. Replace the image that we have made with our own hands. The image we project to the world around us. Help us to humble ourselves, risking everything, to exchange our man-made identity for your Spirit-breathed one. We surrender to the work of your Spirit. Make us less dependent on ourselves and more dependent on you. Re-form us in your own image.