Focus on Jesus Series
Nicodemus, A Teacher of the Jews Who Should Have Known About the New Birth
by Ed Vasicek
Nicodemus was not just a devout Jew, he was a Rabbi who was also part of the “ruling council” known as the Sanhedrin. It is worth noting that Jesus expected Nicodemus to be familiar with His teaching that a man must be born of water and the spirit. This implies that whatever Jesus taught was also seen in the Old Testament. Hence we know that water here does NOT refer to baptism, for believers were not baptized in Old Testament times.
The key to unlocking this mystery is the fact that both the Old Testament Hebrew word (“ruach”) and the equivalent New Testament word (pneuma, or “πνεθμα”) can mean “spirit” or “wind” or “breath” (you might recognize the term “pneumonia”). The context determines whether the term is translated “wind” or “spirit” or “breath.” Jesus uses this play on words by saying that whom the Spirit regenerates is unpredictable because the “wind blows where it will.” He adds, “so is everyone who is born of the wind” (or spirit).
Here are the passages I believe Jesus expected Nicodemus to recall, passages that deal with being born of water and/or wind:
Ezekiel 36:25-27 “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
Ezekiel 37:9-10 “Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'" So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”
Also in Ezekiel 18:31, we read, “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel?”
Of King Saul, we read in 1 Samuel 10:6, “The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person....”
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