November 18, 2019

How Can Someone be Born Again?

John 3:1-8

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked.

—  John 3:4

Nicodemus, a Pharisee who has carefully studied the law of God for many years, visits Jesus one night after all the crowds have gone. Steering the conversation, Jesus soon points out that no one can have life in the kingdom of God without having a brand-new start, a new birth. Nicodemus is perplexed—and to this he responds, “How can someone be born when they are old?”

He is asking a practical question: “Born again? What? Climb back into my mother’s womb to be born a second time?” Nicodemus isn’t being sarcastic or scientific. He sounds almost wistful, as if longing for what he needs but cannot have: a second chance. Yet Jesus seems to be suggesting just that.

Who hasn’t dreamed of starting over? A careless remark or an irreversible act can destroy a relationship. If only we could start again! But that’s impossible, isn’t it? Not for the Son of God! His words are instructive: “born again” here literally means “born from above.” God himself provides our second chance.

The Spirit of God eventually gave Nicodemus faith in Christ. He and another Phari­see, Joseph of Arimathea, came forward after Jesus’ crucifixion to give his body a decent burial (John 19:38-42).

How can someone be born again? By the Spirit of God. Feel the breeze blowing in your life as you believe in Christ!

Lord Jesus, thank you for Nicodemus’s story. We too wonder, “How can this be?” And it’s all a gift from you. Thank you! Amen.

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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