Nicodemus was “the teacher in Israel” but it was Jesus who was making the impact. Nicodemus was so affected that he felt compelled to talk with Jesus, but he comes by night. He declares, “No one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:3). A fascinating conversation follows. John mentions Nicodemus twice again, first when he is questioning the Pharisees about Jesus (7:50) and then, remarkably, when he associates with Joseph of Arimathea, in binding the body of Jesus and placing it in the tomb (19:39).
Jesus challenges Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. “See” can be understood as a person’s eyes being opened when they are “born again”. When is this rebirth? “How can a man be born when he is old?” asks Nicodemus.
It is a challenge to understand what Jesus means, when he answers, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he (or she) cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:5,6). One is born of water by baptism and both John the Baptist and Jesus’ disciples were baptising many (4:1,2). But baptism is of no value unless there is also a rebirth of the person’s spirit, a new way of thinking and outlook on life. “Baptism,” Peter was to later write “is an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21).
So we understand that baptism in water is of no value on its own. But, says Jesus, this rebirth of the spirit is like the wind, it is only seen by the effect it has on a person’s life. The wind cannot be seen, only its affects can be seen. The last verse in John 3 tells us, “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” – that is, their names are written in the book of life. Yet those who falter after their spiritual rebirth are in danger of having their names blotted out of the book (Revelation 3:5). Judas Iscariot is a glaring example.
Being born again creates a relationship with “the light of the world” and “whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his (her) deeds have been carried out in God” (verse 21). Let us all make sure that is true of us.