John 3:1-16

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 gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  (John 3:5-7)

What does it mean for us to be born again into eternal life?

-Jesus draws upon two references from the Hebrew Scripture, our Old Testament, to help Nicodemus to understand why and how he needed to be born again.

-The two images that Jesus draws upon is: 1) water + spirit, and 2) a bronze snake of a staff

(1) Water and Spirit – Resurrected Life After Life

-It is likely that no passage would have stood out to Nicodemus more than a passage from the prophet Ezekiel. In chapters 36 and 37, God speaks to Israel through the prophet Ezekiel. Even though the people of Israel had chosen to worship other gods, Yahweh makes a promise to the people.

-“I will sprinkle you with clean water… I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you.” (Ez.36:26-7)

-Then shortly afterwards God brings Ezekiel into a valley of dead, dry bones and he says to the bones,

-“I will cause my breath, my Spirit to enter you… And you shall know that I am the Lord when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, o my people. And I will put my Spirit within you.”(Ezekiel 37:5, 13-14)

-The image of water and spirit reminded Nicodemus of the promise that God made through Ezekiel. One day he would return to the people and he would clean them with water and would put his very breath, His Spirit in them. Just as God poured out his Spirit, poured out his very life in Genesis when he created the heavens and the earth so he again would pour out his life to bring the dead, dry bones of the people back to life. To those who have given their life to Him, God would share His life with them.

-In the history of the church, God’s words to Ezekiel had been a confirmation that God would fulfill his promise for a new life after life. It was a promise that at the end of history that God would return and raise our dead, dry bones, our dead bodies back to life. That even though our bodies had long composted into the death that God would give us new bodies, new fleshy bodies with muscles and tissue and sinews. Once again blood would start pumping in our bodies, and our brains would regenerate tissue. While in every aspect our bodies were dead, they would be brought back to new life.

What would these new resurrected bodies look like?

-Like Jesus’ body they would be fleshy. Just as Thomas was able to put his hands into Jesus’ wounds, and just as Jesus sat and ate meals with the disciples so too our resurrection will be fleshy. At the resurrection we won’t lose the things that we enjoy most about this world: good food, conversations with friends, the beauty of nature, smelling a freshly baked cake. These are things that we’re going to enjoy, to see, taste, smell, touch in the resurrected new life. But it will also be a transformed fleshy existence. Jesus was fully embodied but his body wasn’t exactly like our own. He was able to appear into a room whenever he wanted, to ascend into the sky while still in his body. Just as Jesus’ body was transformed so ours will too. According to CS Lewis this transformation will allow us to feel and experience reality more deeply than we could in this life. Our resurrected life is the fulfillment of true human life – our relationship with God will feel more real, our relationship with close friends will feel more real, even simple things like the experience of laying on the grass in the sun will feel more real than anything we can experience here. This is because not only will we experience a new life but all of creation – the birds, trees, wildlife will experience a transformation as well. To be born again involves being born into a new resurrected life after life.

-Through the image of the water and Spirit, Jesus reminded Nicodemus that life is a gift of God and through the Holy Spirit Jesus shares the life of God, his life, with us. Without the gift of God’s life, and a new birth into that life, we have no hope for life after life. But Jesus tells Nicodemus and us too that he wants to give us a new resurrected life after life.

(2) A Bronze Snake Of A Staff – Resurrected Life During Life

-Then Jesus evokes a second image to help Nicodemus understand what it means to be born again into new life, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (John 3:13-15)

-The image of Moses lifting up the snake in the wilderness was from Numbers chapter 21. In the passage the people of Israel had been attacked by poisonous snakes in the wilderness. The Israelites are in a position where they realize that their own sin, their own brokenness and rebellion against God has put them in a situation that may cost them their lives. So they ask Moses to go to God to rescue them from their crisis. For the people, death is coming, it’s only a matter of time. God’s solution is that he provides a bronze snake on a staff. God provides a way out for the people in their desperation and need for a solution from their sin. Now, one commentator says that if you had asked the people of Israel how they felt after having been saved from the snakes that they would have replied, “Like we’ve been born again – like we’ve been given a new life.”

-Jesus’ invitation to Nicodemus’ is not only a new resurrected life in the future, but also a new resurrected life now. Jesus is saying that unless God pours His life into us now that we can only live a half-life today.

-On the cross Jesus defeated the power of sin and death that seek to steal life from us and from others – life now and life in the future. On the cross Jesus took the weight of our sin, the weight of death, the weight of our darkness and brokenness, and three days later showed by being raised to new life that death doesn’t have the final say. Just as the Israelites looked to the raised bronze serpent and were given a new lease on life, so Jesus says that when we look to him, when we looked to him raised up on the cross that we too receive a new life – in the future and now.

-This is why, in verse 16, the Gospel writer John interrupts the story to summarize the good news that Jesus has offered so far in his dialogue with Nicodemus.

-For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

-For God so loved, not hated you and I, that he shared his own life with us. He shares so much of his life that when we release control of our own lives and allow His life to fill and transform us; that it spills both into this life, and life after life. God is Himself life and Jesus is the life of God.

An invitation to believe

The reality of the resurrection is not only a reality for a future time but also a reality for today. The same Spirit, the Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is available to anyone who gives their life to Jesus and invites the life and power of the Holy Spirit to fill them. Do you believe that? Do you believe that Jesus wants to resurrect you now? He wants to resurrect you later, but do you also believe that he wants to resurrect you now? Do you believe that Jesus has the power to give you a new resurrected life where you experience victory over sin? Do you believe that Jesus has the power to give you a new heart that is no longer bitter and full of hatred? Do you believe that Jesus has the power to give you a new, resurrected marriage? Or a new resurrected life over the different ways that you are held in slavery and kept from experiencing a full, resurrected life now? Will you receive Jesus’ gift of resurrected life during life and resurrected life after life today?