Many were coming to believe in Jesus on the basis of the signs He was performing (see John 20:29). However, though they believed in Him, Jesus did not believe in them (vv. 23-24). The reason for Jesus’ lack of trust in them is repeated in verses 24-25. Jesus knows all things; whereas we may be a mystery to ourselves and not understand why we do the things we do. Our leaders need advisors, but Jesus needs no advice. He didn’t entrust himself to man. He didn’t need ″any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person″ (v. 25). Jesus’ knowledge is immediately seen in how He deals with a man, Nicodemus (John 3:1).
Nicodemus’ profession is roughly equivalent to judge, university professor, and senator all rolled into one. With a reputation to protect, he comes to Jesus at night and diplomatically makes a careful statement, ″we know that you are a teacher who has come from God″ (v. 2).
How well does Jesus know this fine, upstanding community leader? Jesus is very direct with Nicodemus. He doesn’t suggest a little moral improvement. He doesn’t reassure him that he is on the right track. He tells Nicodemus that he will neither see nor enter the kingdom of God unless he has a totally new birth; a revolutionary fresh start (vv. 3, 5).
Like the Jews in John 2:20 and the woman in John 4:15, Nicodemus takes Jesus literally when He is speaking figuratively-how can a man re-enter his mother’s womb to be born again (v. 4)? This misunderstanding gives Jesus the opportunity to explain.
This new birth is from above. It is from the Spirit (v. 6), and just as Nicodemus played no part in his physical birth, so it is with his spiritual birth. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus should know about this new birth because Jeremiah (31:33-34) and Ezekiel (36:25-36) speak of the new covenant, where God will give people a new heart-His work within.
The Spirit is the sovereign giver of this birth (v. 8), and like the wind He is outside of our control. This echoes what was said in John 1:12-13. This birth is from God. Note therefore, that a born-again Christian is not one variety of Christian. Without the new birth, a person is not a Christian! Those who will see and enter the kingdom of God are those who by the grace of God celebrate two birthdays-one physical and one spiritual.
New birth is not something you do to yourself. It is something that God, contrary to your worthiness, does to you. Think about the implications of this truth.