“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again'” (Jn. 3:7). These words seem out of context. We think Jesus should have uttered them in the next chapter of John, when He met the woman beside the well (4:6-26). She had made a mess of her life and might have welcomed a chance to start over again. That’s why we put up the sign at the rescue mission, You Must Be Born Again, because it seems to apply to people like her.

But Jesus spoke those words to Nicodemus, the Hebrew equivalent of a college professor, a federal judge, and a bishop all in one. Nicodemus was everything that the shady lady by the well was not. Yet it was to this cultivated, respected religious leader that Jesus declared, “You must be born again.”

Why did Jesus tell Nicodemus that? The answer is simple. Like all of us, Nicodemus was born in sin, so he needed a second birth—a spiritual birth. He needed to change the focus of his faith from religion to Jesus (3:15). Only Christ could provide forgiveness and eternal life.

If Nicodemus, the best that religion could produce, needed to be born again, then Jesus’ words certainly apply to all of us. What about you? Have you been born again?