25. Passover at Jerusalem; Visit with Nicodemus (continued)
4Nicodemus said to him: “How can a man be born again when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”
5Jesus answered: “I say to you, except a man be born of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. 7Do not marvel that I said to you, you must be born from above. 8The wind blows where it wills and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes and whither it goes—so it is with everyone born of the spirit.”
9Nicodemus said to him, “How can this be?”
10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher in Israel and yet you do not understand this? 11We speak of what we know and bear witness to what we have seen. 12Can you believe if I tell you of these heavenly truths?”d
d “Can you believe if I tell you of these heavenly truths?”—Jesus tells Nicodemus, “except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” But Nicodemus cannot understand the meaning of this declaration and asks Jesus, “How can a man be born again?”
This is a good question and Jesus answers it in three parts. First, he again declares, “except a man be born of the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” That is to say, the “birth of the spirit” is real and is required for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. This is the truth of first import that Jesus seeks to impress upon Nicodemus.
Next, Jesus explains the “birth of the spirit” by contrasting it with natural birth. He tells Nicodemus, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” Here Jesus is teaching Nicodemus that there are two realms of life, two levels of reality—the world of the flesh and the world of the spirit. We began life in the physical world at birth; we live and grow up in this material world of everyday life, and learn the ways of the flesh. However, there is another and higher world, the world of the spirit, and we may also be born into this world, be “born of the spirit.”
Jesus concludes by describing the unseen action of the spirit on our minds by analogy with the wind. “The wind blows where it wills and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes and whither it goes—so it is with everyone born of the spirit.” In other words, just as we can hear the sound of the wind even though we cannot actually see it, so also, when we are born of the spirit, we can witness the manifestations of the spirit, even though we are unable to see the spirit itself.
The “birth of the spirit” is the change of mind by faith that occurs when we wholeheartedly choose to do the Father's will and follow his spiritual guidance. This submission of our will to God's will results in a new orientation of personality whereby we increasingly give forth the fruit of the spirit in our daily life, the result of the action of spirit working in and through us. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, lists some of the fruit of the spirit as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.” (Gal. 5:22)
Jn. 3:5 I / Truly, truly, I (RSV) • you, except a man be born (KJV) / you, unless one is born (RSV) • of the spirit, / of water and of the spirit, (RSV)
Jn. 3:11 We / Truly, truly, I say to you, we (RSV)
Jn. 3:12 Can / If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can (RSV) (142:6/1602)