The Real Jesus
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The Real Jesus

Chapter 14

"That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit"

   Jesus' sensitive awareness of the spiritual dimension was constant, continual, all pervasive and perennial.
   That the voices which Jesus and/or others heard on various occasions throughout His life and His ministry had to be the voices of heavenly messengers, or angels, was made very clear by Jesus himself when He said, "And the Father himself which hath sent me hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape" (John 5:37). Earlier, John had said, "No man hath seen God at any time" (John 1:18).
   This awareness of the "other dimension" gave Jesus an insight into human nature that was the most fabulous in all of history. He knew that combination of instant appraisal of expression, body language, gestures, mannerisms and speech of individuals to the point that He quite literally could read their minds, and know exactly what they were thinking in any given situation.
   The Bible says as much on several occasions. Especially interesting is an account following the first "cleansing of the Temple" when He threw the money changers out (there could have actually been two such occasions, although most people would never discover this in a quick reading of the gospels separately).
   Jesus told the money changers, "Get these things out of here — and don't make my Father's house a house of merchandise."
   Then some of the religious leaders demanded to know what in the world He was doing and wanted Him to show "some sign." They, like many a religious fanatic today, were hung up on the idea of "supernatural signs."
   On this occasion, He refused to give them an immediate sign. He said instead, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," referring to Christ's own forthcoming three-day-and-three-night period in the tomb. He was saying, very plainly, that some of these leaders were themselves guilty and coconspirators with others who were seeking any possible excuse to put Jesus to death. The obvious inference was that He was referring to His own body, and yet the Jews answered, "Forty-six years it took to build this temple and you say you are going to raise it up again in three days?"
   But John said, "He spoke of the temple of His body," and went on to say that when Jesus was risen from the dead His disciples remembered that He had said this to them — and thereby believed all the more the Scriptures and the words which Jesus had said.
   Then follows a verse which indicates how thoroughly Jesus understood the attitude of other human beings around Him. When He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, many believed in His name when they saw the miracles which He did. (Just how much "believing on Jesus," or "believing in His name" really means to people was exposed later when the same people took up stones to kill Him. Compare John 8:31 with 8:59.)
   "But Jesus did not commit himself unto them because he knew all men — and needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man" (John 2:24-25).
   Jesus did not "commit Himself unto them," meaning totally reveal who and what He was; nor did He place Himself in a position of compromise or jeopardy, because He knew very thoroughly how quickly those same individuals — who "believed in His name" because they saw miracles — could become so enraged they would become a mob and cry out for His blood. This actually happened on many occasions, until finally they succeeded.
   Bearing this in mind, we can read with more understanding Jesus' own words to Nicodemus, who came to Him privately at night and entered into a conversation about Jesus' qualifications.
   Though most professing religions cannot seem to accept these plain words without swallowing a tremendous amount of false doctrine, and completely altering the popular concept of the meaning of the words "born again," the meaning is nevertheless plain.
   John's account said that Nicodemus was a Pharisee and one of the "rulers of the Jews," who, because he feared his constituency, decided to talk to Jesus at night when there was less likelihood of being recognized.
   When he was finally inside Jesus' quarters and began to talk, he admitted that Jesus had come from God, because he said, "No man can do these miracles that you do except that God would be with him."
   Jesus earnestly told Nicodemus, "I'm telling you truthfully, that except a man be born again, he can't see the Kingdom of God!" (See John 3:3.)
   Jesus may have spoken in the Greek language since He was in cosmopolitan Jerusalem; in any event the gospel uses the Greek word gennao which has no exact translation equivalent in the English language, since the word gennao in the Greek implies the entire process from conception to birth (parturition) and unlike the words in English "beget," "conceive," or "give birth," it can be used of both men and women.
   Gennao can include the entire process from conception to birth, and it is clear from Nicodemus' startled response that he understood Jesus to mean the process of being born like the birth of a cow, an elephant, or a human being.
   Nicodemus said, incredulously, "How can a man be born when he is old?" He made himself abundantly clear when he said, "Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
   That retort was perhaps a little laden with sarcasm, as well as incredulity. Nicodemus had already compromised his position to the Pharisees by coming to Jesus in the first place — and by coming there after dark he in essence admitted to Jesus that he was afraid of his peers. He then further compromised himself by acknowledging plainly to Jesus that he knew that He, Jesus, had to be a man of God. Having seen Jesus personally on some occasions, and having heard all the rumors, Nicodemus seemingly wanted to be convinced further.
   But here was this young leader of these hill — country disciples telling him an utterly impossible thing; and he chose to seemingly hurl the words back in Jesus' face with even a little ridicule or sarcasm thrown in, protesting that no adult human being could ever crawl up into his mother's womb and "be born again"!
   Nicodemus plainly understood what Jesus meant as He went on to explain it.
   He told Nicodemus "I'm telling you the truth — that except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God"!
   (Water is used to symbolize several things: (1) it is the symbol of the ceremony of baptism, through which the old sinful self is discarded and a new man emerges in a type of death, burial and resurrection; (2) it also represents the "washing of the water by the word" (Eph. 5:26), showing the cleansing of the human mind and spirit by the imbibing of God's Word; (3) Jesus' own inference on many occasions to the Holy Spirit being typified by "rivers of living water".)
   Jesus then said in John 3:6, one of the most important verses in the Bible, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
   A simple observation — yet crucially foundational to the very essence of God's ultimate purpose for mankind.
   You and I, lizards, turtles, rabbits, elephants and oxen were all "born of the flesh," and like all other creatures, you and I are composed of flesh — physical matter, a metabolic organism made up of cells, with functioning physiological systems.
   We can easily understand that "that which is born of the flesh is flesh" — why then is it so difficult for some to understand that "that which is born of the spirit is spirit"?
   For that's precisely what Jesus meant!
   Even as He lived and moved in a "spirit world" consciousness, so He wanted Nicodemus to understand that a complete transformation from one state of being into a new and different state of being would actually have to take place before a person could inherit the Kingdom of God.
   Jesus went on to explain. "Don't be puzzled that I'm telling you that you have to be born again. The wind blows randomly, and though you can hear its sound, you can't tell where it comes from or where it goes to, because you can't see it; that's the way it is with everyone who is born of the spirit!"
   Nicodemus was almost equally confounded by Jesus' statement that an individual who was "born of the spirit" would actually be a "spirit" (become spirit essence, something extra-physical, extraterrestrial, having its being in the spiritual dimension rather than the physical).
   Nicodemus said, "How can these things be?" Jesus then showed Nicodemus that He was using "earthly" examples and analogies, and asked, "If I have told you earthly things, and you don't believe, how can you believe if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man has ascended up to heaven, but He who came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven."
   Surprisingly, many millions have never read these words, and even many who have, still do not understand them. Yet this conversation with Nicodemus leads directly into the "golden text" in John 3:16, so beloved and so oft quoted, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
   Few seem to know that statement is a part of the quotation Jesus spoke that night to Nicodemus and that Jesus was earnestly trying to communicate to Nicodemus some essential points about the gospel of the Kingdom; the hope and trust in Jesus as Messiah; the belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as a sacrifice for the sins of the world; the acceptance of Him as the risen Savior; the necessity to await for one's own personal resurrection at His second coming; and the fact that only when you are really born of the spirit and literally become spirit have you been fully "born again."
   It's no wonder that later, Nicodemus, together with Joseph of Arimathaea, lovingly and carefully wrapped the body of Jesus in grave clothes and ointments, and helped lay Him in the tomb following His crucifixion.
   Jesus had come from a spirit world, and confidently expected to overcome the flesh and once again to be "born into" that spirit world and return to the bosom of the Father. He was trying to explain to a human being, from His own unique perceptions of that "other dimension," what it would be like to actually become a spirit!
   Rather than choosing electricity (for it had not been "invented" yet), nuclear energy, or any other more "modern" space-age analogy, Jesus chose the example of air as a physical substance which has weight, occupies space, and is familiar, in order to illustrate to this leader of the Jewish people that when a person is truly born of the "spirit," he is to really become spirit!
   This fact is lost on many religious leaders, who cannot seem to accept the plain statement that Jesus became, following His Resurrection, the "first born among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29) and this "rebirth" was the act of being changed from human to divine, from physical to spiritual, from a fleshly body to a spiritual body.
   I have been criticized for allegedly claiming that "Jesus had to be born again." These critics hope to convince anyone who will listen that I make the hideous mistake of claiming Jesus "was a sinner!" needed to repent, and therefore "had to be born again."
   The confusion is quite understandable since these critics are so thoroughly confused about what being "born again" means. To them it is the conversion experience, the time when one repents, and accepts Christ as Savior. Of course, Jesus did not have to repent. He never sinned, and He surely never had to be born again in the sense normally (mis)understood by most religionists!
   But Jesus was "born again" in the biblical meaning of the term: He was born of the spirit at His Resurrection and became spirit, just as will happen to us at our resurrection.
   Cheap tracts, books, articles, letters, and protestations of modern-day religious leaders to the contrary, this Armstrong and his father believe with all of our hearts that Jesus Christ of Nazareth never committed one iota of sin, not even in a subconscious or unconscious thought; and yet we just as firmly believe with all of our being those statements in the opening chapters of John, as well as every other word of the Bible, that Jesus Himself was, in fact, "born again" by a resurrection from the dead, that He quite literally became spirit, precisely as He told Nicodemus all humanity could ultimately become.
   That's why Jesus is called the "first born" of many brethren.
   It's no wonder the Apostle Paul talked about the fact that at the last trumpet, at the time of the resurrection of the dead, "We shall all be changed," and that Job said he would wait in the grave "until my change come"!

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Publication Date: 1977
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