How Can One Enter God’s Kingdom? By *Mike & Sharon Rusten
On April 7, A.D. 30, (See Dr. Harold Hoehner’s book: Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ) Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover, the first since he had begun his public ministry. Since he had been performing miracles, many people believed he was indeed the Messiah. But Jesus didn’t trust them because he knew that they were just following him because of the miracles (John 2:23-24).
Then one dark evening while Jesus was still in Jerusalem, a sincere seeker came to him. His name was Nicodemus, a leader of the Pharisees, the legalist followers of the law of Moses, and a member of the Sanhedrin, Judaism’s ruling body.
Now a certain man, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council,came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus replied,“I tell you the solemn truth,unless a person is born from above,he cannot see the kingdom of God.”Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth,unless a person is born of water and spirit,he cannot enter the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh,and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must all be born from above.’The windblows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus replied,“How can these things be?”Jesus answered,“Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you don’t understand these things?I tell you the solemn truth, we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony.If I have told you people about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?No onehas ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven – the Son of Man.Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,so must the Son of Man be lifted up,so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned.The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. Now this is the basis for judging: that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God (John 3:1-21).
Nicodemus next appears in Scripture defending Jesus before the Pharisees. They asked him, “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him?” Nicodemus spoke up on his behalf. “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing? he asked. The Pharisees, suspecting something in his question, replied, “Are you from Galilee, too?” (John 7:42-52).
Nicodemus is last seen following the Crucifixion, bringing seventy-five pounds of embalming ointment to Jesus’ tomb and then helping Joseph of Arimethea, another secret believer, prepare Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:38-42.)
What does being born again mean to you? God gives eternal life to those who truly believe in Jesus, and the beginning of eternal life is what Jesus terms being born again. It is being born again into God’s family and becoming his child forever. Have you been born again? How do you know?
To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion of plan—this rebirth comes from God. – John 1:12-13
*Mike and Sharon Rusten are not only marriage and business partners; they also share a love for history. Mike studied at Princeton (B.A.), the University of Minnesota (M.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Th.M.), and New York University (Ph.D.). Sharon studied at Beaver College, Lake Forest College, and the University of Minnesota (B.A.), and together with Mike has attended the American Institute of Holy Land Studies (now Jerusalem University College). The Rustens have two grown children and live in Minnetonka, Minnesota. This article was adapted from the April 7 entry in their wonderful book The One Year Book of Christian History, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2003.