Today’s passage: John 3:1–21
Focus verse: “I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)
Nicodemus—who only shows up in the book of John, albeit three times—comes to Jesus. He arrives in secret, in stealth at night, under the shroud of darkness. He’s a member of the religious council that opposes Jesus.
They fear his growing influence and his threat to their way of life and the traditions they find comfort in.
If they learn of Nicodemus’s interest in Jesus, it will ruin him. They’ll kick him off the council, the religious elite will shun him, and Jewish society will ostracize him. He’s not willing to take this risk—at least not yet.
Still, he has a question burning in his soul that his religious training doesn’t cover, and his peers can’t answer. That’s why he sneaks off to meet Jesus at night.
He finds the teacher and addresses him as Rabbi, but before he can voice his question, Jesus answers the uncertainty gnawing in Nicodemus’s soul. “To be part of God’s kingdom, you must be born again.”
“What?” Nicodemus doesn’t understand. “It’s impossible for an adult to be reborn as a baby.”
“First there’s physical birth—of water,” Jesus says. “After that we have spiritual birth—through the Holy Spirit. That’s what it means to be born again.”
“How so?” I’m glad he asked because I want clarification too.
“Once I sacrifice myself, everyone who believes in me and what I’ve done will have eternal life,” Jesus says.
He restates the importance of belief in the best-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16. Then he adds, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36). Jesus, of course, is God’s one and only Son.
After a comforting reminder that Jesus hasn’t come to condemn the world—that is, to judge us—but to save humanity through him, he reaffirms the importance of believing in him a third time. “Everyone who believes faces no condemnation. But those who don’t believe stand condemned already.”
To be born again means to believe in Jesus. He says so three times to emphasize belief as an essential truth and to make sure we don’t miss it.
The Bible doesn’t record Nicodemus’s response to Jesus’s call to be reborn by believing in him. But we can infer he says, “Yes.”
The second time we read of Nicodemus, he advocates for Jesus’s life in front of the religious rulers. Though his words don’t sway them and result in them attacking him, at least he takes a stand for what’s right and doesn’t keep silent.
The last time we hear of Nicodemus occurs after Jesus’s death. In a bold act, Nicodemus helps Joseph of Arimathea prepare Jesus’s body for burial, according to the custom of the day.
At first Nicodemus approaches Jesus in private. Next, he takes a public stand for Jesus. Last, he shows his affinity for Jesus by helping bury his body.
The actions of Nicodemus show he is born again.
- How much of your faith do you hide from others and keep a secret?
- What question do you have burning in your soul? How can you find an answer?
- How do you understand being born again?
- What can you do to take a stand for Jesus?
- How willing are you to take a stand for what’s right and not keep silent?
Discover more about being born again in 1 Peter 1:23. Learn more about Nicodemus in John 7:50–52 and John 19:38–42. What insights can you glean from these passages?
Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.
Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.
One reply on “John Bible Study, Day 5: You Must Be Born Again”
Peter DeHaan you are a Biblical Authority. You are right. The religious elite are keeping the 3 Jesus and Grace a secret. Jesus cannot be (NICODEMUS) the VICTORY of the People (Proverbs 21:31; Luke 7:35; 1 Corinthians 15:57)) until the “rabble” who accept Jesus into their hearts, mind, body and soul wake up and vindicate her as The Woman Jesus caught in Adultery with Nicodemus. Nicodemus recognizes that Jesus is a female teacher (rabbi destined to carry the T) who the religious elite have only authorized to teach under the cover of darkness… on the Covered Porch…aka as the Galilee…the gate, the narthex, the entrance to the Temple. In the fourth chapter of John in verse X Jesus the Teacher of Israel (Nicodemus to those who have clued in) tells the Woman Jesus called the Samaritan Woman or Photini (the light) by the Greeks that had she known the Gift of God AND who it was who was asking her for a drink!!! Why? Because had she met Him earlier in her life she would have asked Him [the Gift of God] and he would have produced a spring in her and she would have had no need to go to the well without her true Israelite husband. Verse X in John Chapter 4 is a KEY Verse. In Chapter 1 of John’s Gospel, Andrew brings the Man Jesus called Nathaniel, a true Israelite in whom there is not deceit, to meet Jesus the Son of God the Father, the King of Israel (John 1:47-49). The name Nathaniel means Gift of God and Jesus Barabbas means the Son of the Father. That is also a Key verse. John 3:29 is another Key verse because the followers of the Baptist thought he was Christ the Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6) the Bridegroom because he was the Teacher of Israel they knew had spent the night with the Woman Jesus called the Samaritan and the Galilean and the Nazarene (the True Branch,Vine, the Light and the Gate). But John says to them…I am not that One because the One who belongs to the Bride is the Bridegroom. The Biblical Authorities have made it very difficult for the Laity to seek and find all the Keys. Perhaps many of them are still in the dark and those who have come to the light are standing in front of the Beautiful Gate to protect her from people who stubbornly refuse to believe both Nicodemus aka John the Baptist and Jo’s Cephas craved her body and wrapped her body in linen bed sheets! (Mark 15:43 King James Version). To see how the authorities are keeping this truth from you, you ought to read Peter DeHaan’s books and then armed with the whole armour of God, your ears will be open and you like the Lame Man begging outside the Beautiful Gate will leap for Joy and be able to enter with your own beautiful feet when you see Peter with John (for yourselves) standing in front of the Gate called Beautiful and hear Peter say. “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:6).