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So keen was Nicodemus to meet Jesus that he was willing to risk being seen. But he had reason to be afraid. The religious sect known as Pharisees that he belonged to were committed to killing Jesus. Such was their intense jealousy over Jesus’s popularity. It was almost certainly for this reason that Nicodemus came at night.
He began by addressing Jesus with respect. “Master” he said, “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”.
His statement – or was it a question – seemed to be something like, “I think you’re from God … but who are you?” But, instead of credentials, Jesus offered Nicodemus a challenge. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. Clearly Nicodemus wanted to move closer to God. But how does one get ‘Born again’?
These days people use the metaphor of ‘new birth’ quite a lot. Cars get ‘rebirthed’ in shady workshops. Commentators speak of the rebirth of a city or sport or a fashion style. But was a ‘makeover’ all Jesus was getting at… or something more? Confused, Nicodemus replied. “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
And so, Jesus explained to Nicodemus that being ‘born again’ meant having God’s Holy Spirit come to live inside you to help you live your life for God. Jesus then offered these famous words,
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Jesus was teaching Nicodemus that to begin life again and receive eternal life, a person must put their trust in him for the forgiveness of their sins.
These days, however, commitment is on the nose. Social researcher, Hugh Mackay, calls Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979) the ‘options generation’. It’s the ‘wait-and-see’ generation, so committed to flexibility and openness that they struggle to commit. But then social theorist Rebecca Huntley also describes Millennials (1980 –1996) as the ‘options generation’.
In truth, the problem with our generation is that we’re ‘post God’ and cynical. How can we take seriously the idea of being ‘born again’? Surely, it’s a religious scam! But if, like Nicodemus, you’re secretly yearning to start life again with God at the centre, then don’t think you need to secretly sneak into the night. You can put your trust in Jesus right now.