Nicodemus was a Pharisees, a ruler of the Jews (John 3:1), and a member of the Sanhedrin ruling council (John 7:50–51). Nicodemus was a common Greek name, and it means “victor over the people.” He was Israel’s leading teacher, they listened when he spoke. Here is Nicodemus sneaking around at night to get a secret audience with Jesus. He had no sooner got in the door and politely greeted Jesus, when He was confronted by the most alarming words he had ever heard. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Immediately Jesus takes Nicodemus to his greatest need which he did not want to talk about. Nicodemus, you are not able to enter God’s Kingdom! This Jewish leader would have been proud of his religious qualifications. But no amount of Jewish or religious law keeping could qualify him for eternal life in God’s Kingdom.
That evening Nicodemus learned he had wasted his entire life on false religion. Nicodemus understood the impossibility of Jesus’s words. John 3:4, how can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? Obviously not, it simply cannot happen. Neither can a person enter God’s Kingdom because of personal merit.
Jesus’ point is this, salvation, entry into God’s Kingdom is entirely the work of God. We offer nothing, we earn nothing, and we cannot persuade God to give us entry. This was NOT good news for self-righteous Nicodemus. Jesus continued, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:5-6).
Nicodemus, like us, was born dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1). Like us, he was not capable of belief because he was so dead that he did not realise there was a life to be had – he was DEAD! Rebirth is totally the act of God the Holy Spirit. God gifts the dead sinner with eternal life. He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit… (Titus 3:5).
God supernaturally takes the dead sinner and regenerates them. He gives them spiritual rebirth from death to eternal life, washing them clean of sin (1 Corinthians 6:11), and spiritually makes a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Nicodemus was wealthy, powerful, popular, and respected. He could pray and he had memorised much of the Old Testament. But Nicodemus was walking DEAD! He could not call heaven down, he could not release heavenly blessing, he could not name or claim anything from God. Only Jesus Christ, God’s anointed Son could give Him life, this was the truth Nicodemus needed to believe.
Sometime later Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathea remove Jesus’ body from the Cross and laid Him in the tomb (John 19:39-42). Most likely, Nicodemus believed in Jesus and was born again, discovering the truth of Jesus’s teaching. To all who did receive him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13). Nicodemus calls from the past, have you been born again?