JESUS TALKS WITH NICODEMUS
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE “BORN AGAIN”
While he is in Jerusalem for the Passover of 30 C.E., Jesus performs remarkable signs, or miracles. As a result, many people put faith in him. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish high court called the Sanhedrin, is impressed. Wanting to learn more, he visits Jesus after dark, probably because he fears that his reputation with the other Jewish leaders will be damaged if he is seen.
“Rabbi,” Nicodemus says, “we know that you have come from God as a teacher, for no one can perform these signs that you perform unless God is with him.” In reply, Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to enter the Kingdom of God, a person must be “born again.”—John 3:2, 3.
How, though, can a person be born again? “He cannot enter into the womb of his mother a second time and be born, can he?” Nicodemus asks.—John 3:4.
No, that is not what being born again means. Jesus explains: “Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) When Jesus was baptized and holy spirit descended upon him, he was thus born “from water and spirit.” At that time, there was an accompanying declaration from heaven: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:16, 17) In this way, God announced that he had brought forth Jesus as a spiritual son having the prospect of entering into the heavenly Kingdom. Later, at Pentecost 33 C.E., holy spirit will be poured out on other baptized ones, and they will thus be born again as spirit-begotten sons of God.—Acts 2:1-4.
It is difficult for Nicodemus to understand what Jesus is teaching him about the Kingdom. So Jesus gives further information regarding his special role as God’s human Son. Jesus says: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, so that everyone believing in him may have everlasting life.”—John 3:14, 15.
Long ago those Israelites who were bitten by poisonous snakes had to look at the copper serpent to be saved. (Numbers 21:9) Similarly, all humans need to exercise faith in God’s Son to be saved from their dying condition and to gain everlasting life. Stressing Jehovah’s loving role in this, Jesus next tells Nicodemus: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Hence, here in Jerusalem some six months after beginning his ministry, Jesus makes clear that he is the way to salvation for mankind.
Jesus tells Nicodemus: “God did not send his Son into the world for him to judge the world.” This means that he was not sent to judge it adversely, condemning all humans to destruction. Rather, as Jesus says, he was sent “for the world to be saved through him.”—John 3:17.
Nicodemus has fearfully come to Jesus under cover of darkness. So it is interesting that Jesus closes his conversation with him by saying: “Now this is the basis for judgment: that the light [which Jesus is by his life and teachings] has come into the world, but men have loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked. For whoever practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, so that his works may not be reproved. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that his works may be made manifest as having been done in harmony with God.”—John 3:19-21.
Now it is up to this Pharisee and teacher of Israel, Nicodemus, to reflect on what he has just heard about Jesus’ role in God’s purpose.