Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:1-8 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. I Peter 1:3-5 ESV
The Asmat people of New Guinea had an interesting custom. When two villages were at war with each other, and they wanted to make peace, they would have a big ceremony. Men from the two villages would lie down on their stomachs side by side in a long line, and women would stand by their husbands and spread their legs to make a long arch. Then children from both villages would crawl through the arch over the top of the men’s backs. When they came out of the arch on the other side, men and women from the two villages would pick up a child from the other village, and they would rock these children and give them baths and treat them like new little babies. For several days there would be a big celebration, and every night women would rock and sing lullabies to a child from the other village. The meaning of this custom is that these children had been born again into the kinship ties of the other village, and because these children were now considered part of the other village, there would be peace between the two groups of people.
When Nicodemus came to Jesus to learn more about his teaching, Jesus told him that anyone who wanted to see the kingdom of God would have to be born again. Nicodemus didn’t understand this. How could he, an old man, crawl back inside his mother and be born again? But Jesus said that the new birth he was talking about was a birth of water and of the Spirit. Jesus was talking about baptism and about the work of the Holy Spirit. We can’t see God the Holy Spirit, but it is his work to bring us to faith in Jesus, through Baptism and also through reading and hearing the Bible. We can’t see the wind, but we can see the work that it does, and when the Holy Spirit gives us faith we see his work, and it is like seeing the leaves of the trees move in the wind. This new birth makes peace between us and God, and gives us a brand new life in his kingdom.
Jesus came to teach people about his kingdom, and more importantly, to open his kingdom to all people by dying on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could have peace with God. Because of Jesus’ work for us, we are born again into the kingdom of God, a kingdom that will last forever.
Dear Jesus, thank you for giving us a new birth into your heavenly kingdom. Amen.
Richardson, Don Eternity in their Hearts Ventura, California: Regal Books, 1981.