Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
(John 3:1-7 New International Version)
There is a world you must be born to see. It isn’t known at just what point in development the unborn is able to see, but at 9 to 12 weeks the eyelids close and remain closed for several months. (Wikipedia.org, Fetus) We do know that at 30 weeks they can hear and at 38 weeks they can identify their mother’s voice from other voices. (Scienceline.org/2007/08/20/ask-moser-ultrasound) But whatever else they are able to perceive about the world outside the womb, it is certain that they cannot see it. They must be born to see it.
Jesus told Nicodemus, a man of great learning, a teacher and leader of his people, that there is a world (the kingdom of God) “no one can see . . . unless he is born again” (v.3). The nature of human kind is both flesh and spirit: “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (v.6). No more than the eyes of the unborn can see beyond the world of the womb, the eyes of flesh cannot perceive the things which are spiritual: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV).
Max Lucado tells the story of Bob Edens who was blind for 51 years. “He couldn’t see a thing. His world was a black hall of sounds and smells. He felt his way through five decades of darkness. And then, he could see. A skilled surgeon performed a complicated operation and, for the first time, Bob Edens had sight. He found it overwhelming. “I never would have dreamed that yellow is so…yellow,” he exclaimed. “I don’t have the words. I am amazed by yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can’t believe red. I can see the shape of the moon–and I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail. And of course, sunrises and sunsets. And at night I look at the stars in the sky and the flashing light. You could never know how wonderful everything is.” (From God Came Near, Multnomah Press) Only the Spirit of God can give us spiritual eyes with which to see “what God has prepared for those who love him” and only then will we understand what so mystified Nicodemus (v.9).
Jesus preached about God’s kingdom (Matthew 4:17). He taught His disciples to pray that God’s kingdom come and to seek it before anything else (Matthew 6:10, 33). Jesus wanted Nicodemus to see and enter into “the kingdom of God” (vv.3, 5). But what does the kingdom of God mean?
In the days of kings and kingdoms people spoke often about the king’s dominion. Over time they shortened the phrase into the one word “king-dom”. So, “the kingdom of God” means His dominion – everywhere that His word is obeyed and His will unchallenged. Well then, if God is Sovereign and His kingdom everywhere (as Christianity teaches), why can’t everyone see it and aren’t we all already in it? Just like the unborn child lives in its own world but encompassed by a greater, larger world beyond the womb’s dimension, the kingdom of God is also multi-dimensional. And, just like the babe in the womb cannot see the greater world/kingdom of which it is a part or enter it apart from being born into it, we can never see or enter into the other dimensions of God’s kingdom apart from a new and spiritual birth – “You must be born again” (v.7).
What the multiple dimensions of God’s kingdom are; how God is but isn’t yet Sovereign everywhere and in everything; and just how we can be born again into His kingdom, are subjects for my next blog.
God bless you.