To Be Born from Above

Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

John 3:4-6 

Dear members and friends,

According to the Gospel of John, Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a leader of Jews. This means that he was a very well respected and influential person among the Jews at the time of Jesus. Even his name Nicodemus in Greek means “victory of the people.” So, when Nicodemus came to Jesus and confessed, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with that person,” it was a big deal for himself personally as well as to all the Jews who followed him. By this confession, Jesus was publicly acknowledged as someone who is divinely special. To Nicodemus, Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Here comes the most important teaching of Jesus, the necessity of “being born from above” as the mandatory condition to see the kingdom of God.    

The conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus reveals the importance of being born from above. Interestingly, Nicodemus’ understanding of what Jesus said was slightly different. He asks Jesus, “how is it possible to be born again?” According to John 3:3, what Jesus said was “being born from above,” and not “being born again.” This may sound the same. However, they are very different because “being born again” is about achieving a mental or spiritual status while “being born from above” is about the necessity of humility in humans to receive true life from God. In other words, “being born again,” which still sounds impossible when taken it literally, focuses on the transformation of human mentality (or spirituality), while “being born from above” focuses on the necessity of acknowledging the truth that life is from God, and we are just vessels that receive and contain the life from God. Therefore, in my understanding, what Jesus meant by “being born from above” is not about requiring people to undergo hard and difficult spiritual practices to become different beings, but encouraging people to acknowledge the inner presence of God within us and to focus on that while living our ordinary lives.   

My brothers and sisters in God, let us come into acknowledgement that embodiment of truth taught by Jesus would never be achieved by reading a book or saying the right words, but only by living a life in which love from God finds home. 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee