‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked.
‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’
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.
Nicodemus is having a hard time trying to understand what Jesus is talking about. He’d come to Jesus at night – it would not be safe for him, a leading Pharisee, to be seen openly talking with Jesus. He tells Jesus that he knows who he is – a teacher sent from God. Jesus’ response to him cuts to the chase. “You must be born again”. Nicodemus takes Jesus literally, and he’s confused. After further words from Jesus, which are not easy even for us in the know to fully understand, Nicodemus gets the rebuke above.
Jesus then uses the symbolism of Moses lifting up a bronze snake in the desert [read it here] for people to see and be saved, an event Nicodemus would understand, to parallel how Jesus would be raised (on a cross) so that people may be saved for eternal life.
Of course, this bit would have been difficult for Nicodemus to grasp, as he didn’t know what was going to happen to Jesus! Jesus then speaks those familiar words. As we ponder them, we realise that this gift of eternal life is a gift of love, a love so great that God the Son came to earth to die for you and me. Paul the Apostle compares Jesus with Adam (1 Corinthians 15:21-22):
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
Jesus came so that we might not follow the trail of Adam to death, but rather the path of Jesus to life.
Are you born again?
If not, do you consider being born again an imperative from Jesus?
Is eternal life as easy to obtain as Jesus says it is?
Father God, would you keep me pondering on your love that is so great that you sent your Son into the world to save me?