Here is yet another “Verily, verily” statement that Jesus made that John recorded. So far, we have read three “Verily, verily” statements, and we have learned that Jesus is the ‘ladder’ to heaven and that we must be born both physically and spiritually to enter into the Kingdom of God. In this next statement, Jesus answers the question that Nicodemus seems to continue to say, “How?”
Nicodemus is a Pharisee that is supposed to teach the other Jews the laws of God. And yet, he continues to ask “How?” He is supposed to answer the questions, not ask. However, we see here that Nicodemus, who is the ‘teacher of teachers’ is actually the student here. Jesus is the Teacher. He is the ultimate Rabbi. So as a parent answering the questions of their inquisitive toddler asking over and over again “how?” or “why?”, Jesus patiently teaches in a way that we can remember.
This next statement speaks to the Nicodemus in us. It answers the question of “how?”, AND sort of rebukes us at the same time. Jesus expected Nicodemus (the Rabbi and Teacher) to know the Scriptures enough to be saved, but he was like many current day members of churches that do not know what new birth is. Nicodemus, being the teacher of the Scriptures, did not remember in Ezekiel 36:26-27, where it says, “26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Also, in Psalm 51:10, where it says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Both in ESV)
There are other Scriptures regarding a “new” heart, “new” spirit, “one” heart/spirit, etc. However, the thing to note here is that you see in these aforementioned passages that both the physical/natural “heart” and spiritual “spirit” are renewed or replaced. This is what Jesus was referring to when He said that we must be born of both water (natural) and spirit (spiritual). We were already born; but we must be born again.
In this next “Verily, verily” passage, in John 3:11-12, it says:
"11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?"
The “you” in this passage is plural. So He is not singling out Nicodemus. Jesus is including Nicodemus in with those who do not believe Jesus’ teachings and testimony. However, He is talking one on one with Nicodemus at this time, which, the take away for me from that is that no matter what group you are affiliated with, being a part of that group does not mean you are exempt from a personal relationship with God. And we must remember, that if we are to be a part of a group, we will be taken on as a whole group as well. We can’t be a part of a group without signing on to what the beliefs and characteristics of that group is as a whole. So beware of who you affiliate with and where you are.
Now, that we are back to the passage at hand, we can see that Nicodemus is getting a stern scolding in love. I can imagine sitting in the corner of the room, watching Jesus and Nicodemus talking. Jesus throws up his hands after Nicodemus, again, says, “How?” Jesus gets a bit exasperated. It seems as though He is at His wits end with the “How’s”. I chuckle to myself, and Jesus turns to me saying, “You get it, right?” And I shrug my shoulders, and say, “In hindsight, yes.” Jesus seems to decide to let Nicodemus have some time to mull it over. He will understand in time.
It is the new heart and new spirit that is of importance here. We are renewed with understanding and wisdom that wasn’t there before. And our spirit is quickened within us as the Holy Spirit revives it. That is being born again. The Scriptures say in Ezekiel 11:19-20; “19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (ESV) The statues (principles, wisdom, knowledge, the why to the how) and rules (the how), and the obedience (the actual actions we take) are all included in being His people and Him being our God. These Old Testament verses, which were simply “the Scriptures” back then, were parts of the information that Nicodemus et al. were supposed to know and teach to God’s people. However, they were missing the important, valuable information, and instead teaching more of the man-made traditions.
I will say this: it is important to note that these traditions may be good for some as it helps to keep our eyes on God and where He is working as opposed to away from God and on destructive things. However, to choose to follow the traditions instead of the Scriptures is something we all must search for within ourselves in an attempt to gain perspective on the motives of our hearts. Take for example, the story of the prodigal son that Jesus teaches. The younger son decides to demand his “inheritance” from his father now instead of waiting until his father dies to receive it. The father could have just tossed him out on his ear, but instead gives him what he wants. The younger son goes out and spends it all partying and the like, until he has no more. Then, he hits rock bottom in his life, and he decides to come humbly back to his father, asking forgiveness. His father is not wroth. His father runs to him, thankful that his son has returned, and throws a party. The older son, however, is upset. He has been performing the actions, but his heart was not right. He wasn’t happy and thankful that his brother returned, humbled and having learned valuable lessons changing his heart and thinking. The younger brother knows now the “WHY” behind the what, when, and HOW. The older brother still doesn’t know the “WHY”, but he continues in the what and when. And you can’t get to the HOW until you get through the what-when-why and then how. I really hope that makes sense to you. Because in later posts, I will refer to the “who-what-when-why-how” thought process I go through deciphering certain passages.
We must TRUST Jesus at His word. And since Jesus is the only One that has been in the presence of the Father (being His Son), then He is the most trustworthy witness we have of gaining information about the “who-what-where-when-why-how” of Him. Truly, truly, verily, verily, we need to trust Jesus, first and foremost. We must believe His information and presence. He came for many purposes, but the main purpose was to create a way back to the presence of the Father. And that is exactly what He did.
Trust is the keyword here. All of the information we receive from Jesus is for our good.
Gotta go fill up my cup…..