6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 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.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?John 3:6-12
A. [John 3:8f.] An Expert Flummoxed
One day, so the story goes, George Whitefield was confronted by a puzzled fellow preacher who demanded of him, “Mr. Whitefield, why are you always preaching: ‘You must be born again’?” “Because,” replied Whitefield, “You must be born again.”
It’s so simple. There’s a reason why Evangelicals think John 3:16 is the best known text in the Bible — it isn’t, try Matt. 6:9-13 — but there’s also a reason why John 3:6-12 is inserted between vv. 2:23-3:5 and vv. 3:13-21. It was important to those first readers of John’s gospel to read that Nicodemus didn’t get it and it’s important to us too. We can come across this sort of objection all the time; wherever “Science” and “Spirituality” are pitted against each other. The one always wants ascendency over the other so when Jesus draws his comparison between wind and spirit, Nicodemus asks, “How can these things be?” The proverbial single flap of a butterfly’s wing that leads to the storm is definitively beyond science’s ability to trace and by perfect analogy, the spiritual man is moved by more than the dictats of expertise. It is more Nicodemus’s privilege that is offended than his knowledge for a true seeker after knowledge welcomes the chance to start again. The fear is that being born again means counting as loss everything previously regarded as gain. [c.f. Phil. 3:4-7]. So the poor person; the person with no status; the person with no expertise is able to see how these things must be, much more readily and much more willingly than the wise man of any particular age.
B. [John 3:10-12] Back to Basics
With his talk of “Wind” and of “Earthly things” Jesus is inviting us to get back to basics; to what the Greeks would have called elementary things. And when he says, “we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.” he hits the nail on the head for us as well. Nicodemus began his meeting with Jesus by declaring, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God …” but saying someone is a teacher come from God and then not being able to take their word for it is at best inconsistent. What about us? If we say we are Christians but won’t take Jesus at his word we might have worse things to say about ourselves.
C. [John 3:6f.] The Need to be Born Again is Obvious
So the need to be born again is obvious, for natural birth or being born of the flesh is not enough if we are going to value what is spiritually valued or discern what is spiritually discerned. Similarly, relying on our inate spirituality — that we have from being made in the image of God — is worse than inadequate because of the spiritual corruption that the unregenerate person is cursed with. The image needs to be restored if we are going even just to take Jesus at his word; if we would have the adoptive right to call ourselves “Christian”; and if we would be free as the wind we need to be born again.
So hear Jesus as he speaks to Nicodemus and to you, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” Because You must be born again.