The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus is, arguably, one of the most interesting in the scriptures. As noted in our lesson, Nicodemus is a Jewish leader, a pharisee and likely a member of the Sanhedrin. He is very, very well educated and, most likely someone who is considered both by others and by himself as being very devout in his faith.
He comes to Jesus as a seeker, but as a seeker who already knows what he wants and expects. He doesn’t come to Jesus with a question, he comes to Him with a statement. In Jesus he recognizes something different, something from God, something that is not evident (at least to the same degree) in others. He addresses Jesus as teacher, Rabbi, and, I believe, his expectation is that this teacher will teach him how to add that on to his life. He is looking for an add-on module, another tool in his already very full toolbox.
And, Jesus, despite not being asked a question, gives Nicodemus the answer to the final exam. You must be born again.
Nicodemus is looking for some teaching, some knowledge, some power that he can acquire that will add to his life and beliefs. Jesus says believe and you will have knowledge and power and eternal life.
It is the difference between seeing to believe and believing to see. It takes us back to Nathanael in John 1 who also called Jesus Rabbi when he believed because of what Jesus told him.
Think of it this way. The writing that we seek is written on the wall, it is plain, it is freely available, it is everything that we seek to fulfill us and join us in unity with God. But a wall has 2 sides. To truly see the writing, we must pass through the doorway. That doorway is belief in Jesus, it is being born anew. It is becoming a soul with a body, not a body with a soul. There is no cost of entry (Jesus paid it all). There is no penalty or nothing that is demanded from us. There is nothing we add to or give. We simply either step through or we do not. But stepping through the door changes everything.
It is interesting to see the difference that step makes. Nathanael was able to walk with Jesus and grow in faith and power and love every day. Nicodemus, while having continued inward struggles, remained fixed on the other side of the wall. John 7:48-49: “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.” Nicodemus missed out. The last mention we have of Nicodemus is still one in secret as he helps Joseph of Arimathea take the body of Jesus from Pilate without it being known by the Jewish leaders. He helps wrap the dead Christ and brings 75 lbs of myrrh and aloes and lays Him in the tomb.
It is what must come first – Faith before comprehension, faith before spiritual power, faith before teaching
Jesus is discussing spiritual gifts and Nicodemus is stuck in the physical world. Nicodemus is searching for God in the physical (signs and miracles), Jesus is explaining that He is to be found in Spiritual rebirth which then bridges the spiritual and physical
Human life comes from human parents, flesh refers to human nature, flesh refers to the physical world
dead in transgressions and sins – Without rebirth we are dead in sin
It is by faith alone that one is reborn. It is in both the act of accepting the gift of salvation and inviting the spirit to dwell within combined with a desire to grow in holiness and love for Him who first loved me.