“Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, ‘How can these things be’?”
Sincere, wholehearted seeking will always end with sublime, wholehearted receiving (Jer. 29:13; Mt. 7:7-11).
He was religious, ritually-pure, righteous, respectful and quite rational; yet, there was something still missing in Nicodemus’ life. Even though his very name meant “Conqueror of the people,” he could not conquer himself or cleanse his conscience from the guilt of his sins of commission and omission.
So, he sought out Jesus—for he recognized something “special” in Him (v.2).
Interestingly, he “came to Jesus by night” (v.2), which would indicate possible timidity on his part. He was a “Pharisee” (v.1a), one of the “rulers of the Jews” (v.1b), and, therefore, quite educated and conversant in the Law. By Jesus’ day they’d replaced the priests in matters of interpretation and application of the Law because of the priests’ corrupt and half-hearted ways.
Yet, again, in this Man from Galilee Nicodemus recognized God’s Hand on His life and wanted to know more about Him.
As they talked, Jesus dropped a bombshell in his lap as He began talking about being “born again” (vv.3, 7). It’s clear the elderly listener didn’t understand Jesus’ words, for he was trying to interpret them with his “natural mind” or intellectual reasoning (v.4). And, it’s impossible for our Adamic minds to comprehend the things of God (I Cor. 2:14).
That’s why we must be born again and receive a “new heart and mind” (Ez. 36:26).
To help Nicodemus better grasp His message, Jesus painted a parallel between the physical birth and the spiritual birth (vv.5-6). All of us are “born of water” (v.5a), which refers to the amniotic fluid surrounding a child in his mother’s womb. But, this birth will not enable us to “enter into the Kingdom of God” (v.5c).
Only the new birth brought about by the Holy Spirit can do that (v.5b).
Physical birth requires the union of a man and a woman and the “seed” of man finding lodging in the woman’s womb. Spiritual birth requires the “seed of God” (the Word) finding lodging in a fertile heart of faith. And, from that moment of spiritual conception. . .where one begins contemplating the greatness of God and the sinfulness of self (Is. 6:1-5). . .until that moment when one “comes to himself and says ‘I will arise and go to the Father’” (Lk. 15:17-18a). . .the Holy Spirit quietly moves within that life even as the wind moves through the boughs of a tree (Jn. 3:8).
How wonderful it is when that “conception” finally breaks forth into new life at the moment of “conversion” or salvation (II Cor. 5:17). Glory!! No longer does that one live in darkness or condemnation (Jn. 3:18b); instead, he/she is “delivered” from darkness into Light. . .error into Eternity. . .guilt into Grace. . .finite into Forever. . .forsakenness into Forgiveness, etc (Jn. 3:18a). And, slowly, but surely, through the process of sanctification this recipient of “Grace and Truth” (Jn. 1:17) moves from “How can this be?” to “How sweet it is!” Hallelujah!!
By Tom Smith Morning Manna Dated June 5, 2010