“From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” –Ezekiel 36:25-27
Nicodemus may have been a ruler of the Jews, highly revered by all of the people in Israel, but when he stood before Jesus, that was all stripped away. In front of Jesus, Nicodemus was just another person in need of the work of God. Jesus did not over think His audience and treat him in unusual ways because of the office Nicodemus held, rather, Jesus saw him as a wandering soul in search of the Truth.
When presented with the truth that all men need the new birth, Nicodemus responded with “So do I enter my mother’s womb again and get reborn?” Jesus responded with a correction that was multi-layered. Instead of a simple “No,” Jesus explained how that the ridiculous proposition of Nicodemus wasn’t just comical, but had the wrong actors in it.
In Nicodemus’s estimation, the new birth was something that he must do. Jesus was swift to point out that it was not Nicodemus who re-birthed Himself. The illustration that Jesus gives of being born again is the perfect example of what being saved truly is. In our first birth, our natural birth, we don’t decide when or where we are going to be born. Similarly, in the new birth, it is not something that you put on the calendar and plan for, rather, it is something that is brought about in you by the grace of God.
To demonstrate this truth, Jesus refers to the process as being “born of the Spirit.” He also uses the illustration “the wind bloweth where it listeth(pleases).” His analogy is that when the wind is blowing outside, you can see the effects of it, but there is none that orders the wind around. It blows where it pleases. Similarly, no one orders the Spirit of God around, telling it to move in this place or that. Rather, of God’s free grace, He extends His Spirit’s regenerating power to each individual as He pleases.
This regeneration is what God said in the Old Testament in places like Ezekiel 36. God, of His own will, comes and renews mankind. He does a transforming work in the heart of man, giving man the desire to obey and the power to follow after Him in obedience. Perhaps Nicodemus did not fully understand it yet, but the glorious truth was that God was already working the truth in the mind and heart of Nicodemus, like a mighty rushing wind. His confusion, and consternation, and even his resistance were evidencing that something Greater was already at work in him.
Food For Thought: What two illustrations did Jesus use to explain the work that the Holy Spirit of God accomplishes in us in regeneration?